The Grandmother Marta
According to legend, “Grandma Marta” is a woman with erratic behaviour; you can see her cheerful, sad, or angry. The month of March in Bulgaria is very similar to her behaviour. She also represents the arrival of spring and the blooming of nature after a long winter in which white predominates owing to snow. People all over the world welcome spring with great enthusiasm and excitement, but Bulgaria is one of the few countries that celebrates its arrival with such a big festival, full of customs that have their roots in our town’s distant past.
On March 1st, you will see that every Bulgarian in the country is wearing a “Martenitsa.” You’re probably wondering what Martenitsa is. It is a particular amulet constructed of white and red twisted thread, primarily wool or cotton. Why are only white and red used? The colour red represents health and abundance, whereas the colour white represents purity and long life. These twisted threads have long represented two boyfriends: Posh and Penda.
Today, it’s not just the silhouettes of the two lovers, but also bracelets, necklaces, rings, and anything else artistic you can think of. The “martenitsa” guards against illness and bad luck. Friends and relatives exchange “martenitsas” for good health and fortune throughout the year.
Bulgarians used to hang their martenitsas on all areas of their bodies, including the neck and legs, and this was sometimes associated with a person’s social position. Unmarried females, for example, hung their martenitsas on the left side of their garment, unmarried boys, on the little finger of their left hand, and married men, on their right sock.
The martenitsa is traditionally worn until one sees a stork or a blossoming tree. When this happens, you must separate from your martenitsa and hang it on a blossoming tree. As a result, it is expected that you will have a prosperous year.