Today in Bulgaria: Baba Marta Day

Today in Bulgaria: Baba Marta Day

On the first of March, Bulgarians pay tribute to Grandma March, also known as Baba Marta, by tying red and white strings called martenitsa around their wrists to represent the changing of seasons. The white color symbolizes integrity and purity, while red represents women and health: it is a sign of blood, conception and birth.

All over the world people meet spring with joy and new hope but it in Bulgaria it is marked as an ancient custom. If you are walking along the streets in Bulgaria on March first, you will witness not only people wearing the martenitsa but also decorated dogs and cats—even  lambs, kids, and foals dress up for the holiday in rural areas. Houses have their own martenitsa, as well.

Baba Marta is believed to be a feisty lady for whom the sun shines when she smiles. As folklore often goes there are different versions of the Baba Marta tale. One says that on that day she does her spring cleaning and shakes her mattress, all the feathers that come out of it to fall on Earth as the last snow of the year. The martenitsa tradition is thought to have been inspired by Bulgaria’s first Khan Asparuh, who sent a white string to his wife to tell her he survived a battle.

People wear the bracelets as they wait for the first signs of spring – flowers blooming or the arrival of spring birds—when people remove their martenitsa and tie them to a blossomed fruit tree.