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    What is Martenitsa?

    Chestita baba Marta! (Happy Martas Day)

          According to folk beliefs the spring comes with the arrival of Grandmother Marta. Her dual image sometimes cheerful, sometimes angry, represent the womans beginning that gives life from one side but is elemental and destructive at the same time.

          March is the only womens month, the month of the spring and the land which will give birth to summer and fertility. The Martenitsa is its symbol, a symbol of reawakening and the cult to the Sun. The white colour represents the mans beginning, the power, the light sunny part of the world. Later under the influence of Christianity it is connected to innocence white is the colour of Jesus.

          Red is the womans beginning, health, its a symbol of blood, of conceiving and giving birth. The Martenitsa is kind of an amulet against evil powers and wearing a Martenitsa is a magical ritual act. The twisted lace of white and red thread protects the person in a magical way.

    The tradition

          In the morning the housewives hang in front of their houses red aprons, threads or twisted laces. It is said that they protected the house against evil, illness and poverty. When Grandmother Marta sees them she will smile and the sun will shine.

          Women twist white and red threads in advance and they tie them to each member of the family.

          They protect against misfortune and illness, and are removed when the first stork is seen. When they are removed they are put on a blossoming tree. In other places they would put it on a big stone and in 9 days look whats under it. If there are ants during the year there will be a lot of sheep, if there are bigger insects there will be cattle too. Thats why in some places the Martenitsa is also called gadalushka (something you can predict on) In other places they would throw it in the river so that they will have a plain sailing during the whole year and all evil can go away.

          In some parts of Bulgaria the week starting from the 1st of March is called Counted days you can predict the weather for the whole year according to them. Very popular is another tradition - to choose a day. Everyone chooses a day until the 22nd of March and according to it you see what your year is going to be if it is sunny it will be successful, if it rains it will be a hard year for you.

          The first Martenitsa models were made only of red and white thread without any decorations. In some areas they started to tie a gold or silver coin, blue bead, but they had the role of an amulet.

          Later the Martenitsa started to be in different shapes. Normally they are made of wool and look like balls, coins or tassels. The most popular are Pijo and Penda which are like dolls.

          Red is a symbol of protection against illness. A red thread is normally tied to young babies and brides wrists. White wool in the Martenitsa presages long life, and the red health and strength so needed at the end of winter.

          A video about how a Martenitsa is made can be seen online or downloaded from the links bellow:

    Watch video online (Windows Media - 273 kbps.)

    Download video (.avi file 241 MB)

          This video has been made in the Secondary School of Economics "Dimitar Hadjivasilev" - Svishtov, for project "The value of diversity in our cultural heritage", program "Socrates - Comenius - 1"