Grandmother Marta, traditional Bulgarian custom (Baba Marta)
23 February 2021
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On the first of March everybody should wear martenitsa, especially young children, just married couples or newly born domestic animals. Some of the fruit trees, the handles of the door, the vineyard also have their own martenitsa. There are special places where you can put martenitsa: on the wrists, on your neck as a necklace or on your left side of your dress. In some regions of Bulgaria there are special amulets according to people's social status. Young unmarried girls wear their martenitsa on the left side of their dress whereas young unmarried lads wear them on their left hand small finger, married men put martenitsa in their right sock.
People wear martenitsa for a certain period of time. Usually the end of the period is connected with the first signs of the coming spring - blossomed trees, meeting of the first spring birds like storks, swallows or cranes. Then people remove their martenitsa and tie them to a blossomed fruit tree.
In different regions of Bulgaria the process of taking off the martenitsa was connected with forecasting practices. In Southern Bulgaria people believed that martenitsa fastened to the wrists should be taken away when you see a flying stork. If the stork wasn't flying that was a symbol for a very lazy summer. People take off the martenitsa from their neck when they see a swallow which symbolizes the neck to be graceful and long as of the bird. Unmarried girls put their martenitsas under a big stone and then they would make a prognosis for their future wedding.
When the martenitsa is taken off according to all rituals its special spiritual purposes are over. This marks an important transition - the end of the winter and a tansfer to positive changes. This widespread practice of wearing of Martenitsa and its exclusive stability in the Bulgarian folk culture is explained with the believed magical power of the red colour. Along with the garlic, the metal coin, the blue beads, and wolf's or snake's tooth, the red woolen thread is believed to have the magic power to chase away the evil spirit, the demons and the illneses.
Bulgarians don't practise all these rituals nowadays. The necessity of most of these preventive measures has dropped off. The essencials of this rich ritual have been reshaped according to the modern holiday aspects. The kids are the most enthused when practicing this traditional holiday. They accept Baba Marta as well as they accepted Santa Clause two months before, but they receive Martenitsas instead of presents. There are many songs to Baba Marta also, that are kept from the ancient times and are still sung nowadays. All them are joyful and merry like Marta's character.
The Martenitsa... this magical amulet inherited by our predecessors is the first sign of the coming spring. That's why each Bulgarian wears martenitsa on the first of March, symbolizing ones faith that hereon everything will be better. People will smile because they believe they have won the benevolence of Baba Marta.