Mărţişor is one of the best Romanian traditions, celebrated in the beginning of the Spring, on March 1st.

Mărţişor is one of the best Romanian traditions, celebrated in the beginning of the Spring, on March 1st.

The tradition’s name is the diminutive of March (in Romanian: Martie). The men offer to the women a talisman object also called Mărţişor, consisting of a jewel or a small decoration like a flower, an animal, a heart, tied to a red and white string. There are multiple symbols in this gift, but all of it have three common sense: revival, sensibility, and the care for the women.

The gift is considered to bring good luck and wealth. Some consider the red as the symbol of the Spring, and the white for Winter, the tradition taking place right between the two seasons. I prefer the version in which the two colors represent the love and the sincerity. This symbols fit better with the early Spring flowers associated with this tradition, especially the snowdrops.

There are archeological proves that the tradition is over 8 thousands years old. It was celebrated by Getas, and it is found in the celebration of Mars as the protector of the fertility and vegetation, as well as in the celebration of the Marsyas Silen god by the Dacians. The Dacian women use coins and little stones tied to red and white wool wires, for wealth and fertility.

Similar traditions can be found in Balkans, especially in Bulgaria (the tradition is called Martenitsa – Мартеница), Macedonia and Albania.

March 1st marks the first official day of spring in Romania, and in common with many other countries, there are a whole host of traditions to mark this momentous day, the most notable of which is Mârţişor.

Perhaps it is because Romanians are still so close to their agrarian past in many ways, despite the overt urbanisation of the cities, that these traditions are still so strongly held here.  Even in the cities, tiny patches of land behind apartment blocks are transformed by the cultivation of tomatoes, peppers or potatoes, and in the rural villages houses are surrounded by vines, fruit trees and extensive vegetable patches.  Many villagers keep turkeys, chickens and pigs in their yards.

The Marţişor gift is a simple bow made of these threads, often hung with small plastic objects or charms.  They are exchanged to show love, affection and friendship, and men will give little bunches of snowdrops to women along with the bow.

 

The bows are worn for the first nine days of the month, which are called the ‘Nine Old Ladies’.  Each person can choose one of these days every year, and tradition dictates that if the weather is good on the day that you choose, then your whole year will be a good one!

 

 

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