Monday, March 1, 2010

Chestita Baba Marta! // ЧЕСТИТА БАБА МАРТА!

Dobro utro!
(Good morning, good day, etc)

Today is a special day in Bulgaria, so I thought I'd share before running off to school. In last night's post, I ended with making 'martenitsi' for the celebration today.

What's so special about today, March 1st, you ask?

March first is what is known as 'Baba Marta', or grandmother March, to take a literal translation. It is a holiday that is meant to welcome the coming of Spring, but also symbolizes wishes of good health and happiness towards family and friends. Baba Marta is traditionally seen as a volatile woman with mood swings that are evident by the weather in the month of March. The holiday aims to please her so that the coming of Spring will come faster.

So how do you celebrate Baba Marta?

Generally speaking, it is Bulgarian custom to make what is called 'martenitsa' (plural: Martenitsi) to give to ones friends and family. These are often in the shape of bracelets, or even dolls -- named Pizho and Penda. Of course many people no longer have the time to make many of these by hand, as I have figured out last night... (It took me about two hours to make one with all the care I could.) This being said, one is able to buy many of these from street-side vendors. Some are hand-made, others are made in China (which surprised me to some degree) but one common theme remains, no matter where the martenitsi is produced or who it is for: the colors; Red and White.

The color red takes on a number of meanings, some of which include: blood, femininity, passion, life. White can mean purity, masculinity, or the melting of the winter snow.

The story behind Baba Marta:

the origins of Baba Marta are explained in a few folktales, one of which is about the founding of Bulgaria by Khan Koubrat, the founding of the first Bulgarian kingdom by Khan Asparoukh, the observance of the god Mars, (the god of war and spring). Each of these stories further explains the meanings behind the red and white colors of the martenitsi. This tradition is hundreds of years old and still remains to be celebrated by Bulgarians to this day. (it is important to note that other countries like Romania, Poland, Moldova and Greece have celebrations on March 1st as well, though some may be for slightly different reasons, as far as I understand).
Now before I run off to my classes for the day, here are some pictures of the martenitsi I made.

This is a bracelet I tried to make... Not the greatest, I wish I knew how to do the traditional designs, but I at least I got the colors down! ^__^

This took me about an hour and something to make...but I don't think it's too shabby!

This is me after I thought I was done because I could find no white string around the house... I knew white was part of the tradition, but I thought since it was first time making one, it would be okay, but I was sad I wasn't able to follow the rules as tradition calls for.. Lo and Behold I later found a spool of white thread... I think Baba Marta was looking out for me :)

This was the final version after I'd searched the house for white string all day, and tried to bleach red yarn (which didn't work!!! I must figure out why!?)

Well, its 10:16 and I should have already left the house, haha OPA!

Priyaten Den!
(Have a good day!)



  1. Thats an awesome second post!
    And the martenitsi are beautiful (the important thing is you made them with love hehe)

    Where are you from? Do you go to the American College of Sofia?

    I'm a Bulgarian studying in Boston and I try to write about nice things that connect the US and Bulgaria.

    Did you celebrate Trifon Zarezan, another unique Bulgarian holiday, as well? :)

  2. Hey Zikata!

    Thank you so much! Actually I live in New York and have never been to Bulgaria, I would love to go there though! I'm trying my hardest to learn all I can about it and I hope to live there for a bit sometime in the future as I continue my studies. I just really feel such a connection to Bulgaria that I can't fully explain, haha. :)

    I don't know who Trifon Zarezan is, thank you for the link, I am soo going to read it now! :)
    Take Care! I definitely won't be a stranger to your blog! :)