01 March - Baba Marta

The 1st of March is known as the day of Baba Marta. It is unique Bulgarian Holiday with no analogue among the other nations. On the day of Baba (Grandmother) Marta, people are giving each other martenitsi. The small red and white talismans are symbol of health and fertility.

The roots of the holiday date back to the pagan times. The red colour is a symbol of the feminine beginning, health, conception and birth, and the white on the other hand is the male beginning, strength and light. By this invariable combination between the man and woman, which actually rules the world, the Bulgarian folklore notifies the beginning of the spring season and the new beginning.

Most of the legends for the origin of the matrenitsa are related to the foundation of Bulgaria and the pre-Bulgarians. One of them says that after a vicious battle, when the khan himself found his death, the Bulgarians managed to win and sent a pigeon to their relatives with white cotton weaved on it – as a sign of victory. Hostile arrow, however hit the pigeon and his blood coloured the cotton, until he reached the village. The priest interpreted this, as a sign of victory, gained with a lot of blood.

The other legend tells that after the victory of khan Asparuh over the Byzantines, he had to thank god Tangra. According to the tradition the sacrifice pyre had to be lightened by a spray of fennel, which did not grow up along our lands. The khan was desperate and at that moment a small swallow, sent by his sister. It carried a spray of the herb, tied by red and white cotton for health and luck. Probably, that is why today the greeting cards for 1st March have a swallow drawn.

The fairy image of Baba Marta, is also very interesting. Actually, she is an elderly lady with extremely changeable character. She has a power over the weather and according to her mood it is sunny or cloudy with snow and rain storms. It is hard to please the capricious lady, but ever since immemorial times it is known that she loves to see young and beautiful people and gets mad if you see a man without martenitsa. That is why 1st March, forces the old people to stay at home and everyone has to carry red and white threads, which have to be removed once you see a stork or the first green three.



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