Baba Marta (Grandma Marta) is a tradition celebrated in Bulgaria and in some of the neighboring countries. Each year on 1 March we give each other (to your family, friends, colleagues, home, pet etc) a martenitsa, a red and white wrist band or small doll to put on your chest. This way we wish each other good health, joy and long life. The most famous martenitsa is a couple of a boy and a girl called Pizho and Penda. The male Pizho, is made of white wool, while the female Penda is mostly red. According to the tradition you receive martenitsa always as a gift, you don’t buy one for yourself.
We wear the martenitsa until we see a flying stork, swallow or a blossoming tree. Then we hand it on the tree and we make a wish. Grandparents say to choose a fruit tree, so the wish comes true. That’s why if you visit Bulgaria in the beginning of March, streets are full of kiosks with red and white martenitsas. Some Bulgarians with many friends or colleagues tend to have more than 10 martenitsas on their wrist. 🙂 It is a challenge to wear them all month long. Later when we hang them you get to see trees with red and white decoration all over the city. It looks like a colorful wishing tree. One of the most famous in Sofia is next to Ivan Vazov National Theater.
Another symbol of this celebration are the snowdrops. Tender beautiful flowers that pop up even when we have snow in March. Snowdrops appear usually for Baba Marta and tell us “smile, it is warmer, sun is shining and spring is coming soon”.
Baba Marta is a very old tradition that we still keep today. We relate it to the coming spring, new beginning and awakening of nature. Winter usually is pretty cold in Bulgaria and we have a lot of snow. Very often it is a challenge even for locals. So we celebrate and welcome spring with happy warm hearts.
Martenitsa’s colors have their meaning. White of purity and red of life and passion, of the constant cycle of life and death, the balance of good and evil, and the sorrow and happiness in human life. The Martenitsa symbolizes also Mother Nature, the white symbolizing the purity of the melting white snow and the red setting of the sun, which becomes more and more intense as spring progresses. These two natural resources are the source of life. They are also associated with the male and female beginnings, and in their balance, with the need for balance in life.
Since 2017 martenitsa is on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Don’t be surprised if you travel with us in March when we give you as a present a martenitsa as we do to all our friends and wish you:
“Be healthy and happy all year long!” Beni & Betty