One of the most beloved holidays from young and old is the first day of March or as it is better known - the holiday of Grandma Martha (Baba Marta). This holiday heralds the end of the harsh winter and the coming of spring and the new life it brings with it.
The appearance of martenitsas is associated with many legends, one of which is the arrival of Khan Asparuh in the Bulgarian lands. The first martenitsas were only woven white and red threads. Later, gold coins or blue beads were added to the red and white knitting to protect their owner from curses. Martenitsas were hung on all members of the family, as well as on the animals in the barn, so that they would be healthy all year round.
We are used to the fact that the tradition of decorating with martenitsas is found only in Bulgaria, but the truth is that this is a pagan holiday that has remained in the culture of many countries in the Balkans. Apart from Bulgaria, martenitsas are also known in Greece, North Macedonia, Romania, Moldova and Albania.
In our southern neighbor - Greece, the holiday is called Marty. Greek martenitsas are usually made in the form of red and white bracelets or rings with which parents decorate their children. Tradition dictates that the martenitsa should be worn until the last day of March, after which it should be left in a flower garden.
The "Martinka" holiday in North Macedonia was also celebrated mainly by children, but nowadays it is almost forgotten, as few people still adorn themselves with this handmade ornament.
Although at first glance the martenitsas in Romania and Moldova look the same as the ones we are used to in Bulgaria, there are some differences. In Romania, the so-called "martsishor" is given only by a man to a woman or between two women, but never between men. Usually, the martsishor is accompanied by a flower, also symbolizing the approaching first spring. In Moldova, where martenitsas are believed to have been brought in during the migration of Bessarabian Bulgarians, tradition has it that girls tie a red thread to the boys' arm, which they must wear until the end of March or until they see a swallow. After that, it must be placed under a stone.
On the first day of March, Albanians wear “verore” so that the March sun does not “catch” them. Similar to the Bulgarian belief, in Albania they also tie the yarn ornament to the branches of a fruit tree or place it under a stone. And if a worm appears under the stone the next day, the interpretation is that the year will be fertile and successful.