Every step of the way, in every shop we are "flooded" with red and white in front of the March extravaganza. Different shapes and sizes, fanciful imagery, eccentric solutions, and often not quite appropriate ideas and colors.

And where did this Bulgarian custom actually originate?

According to the folklore worldview, Baba Marta is the embodiment of the moon itself and spring. She had two brothers, Big Sechko (January) and Little Sechko (February), who drank wine every year and left nothing for her. Therefore, she was always angry and sour, and had to be appeased in order not to badly affect the weather. This is how the martenitza tradition was born. When she saw them, Baba Martha rejoiced and immediately baked the sun.

Apart from folk art, the origin of the martenitsa is explained in various legends.

One of them tells the story of Khan Asparuh and his sister Kalina. He set off from the distant Tibetan Mountains to look for fertile lands for Bulgarians to settle. After years of wandering, he reached the Slavic settlements, where he was greeted with hearts and tables packed. Despite the success, however, the khan longed for his home and loved ones. Then a miracle happened. There was a swallow on his shoulder, to which he shared his pain. The bird found his sister and told Kalina about the new fertile lands, but also about her brother's grief over the family. The girl was delighted with the news and sent a sword across the swallows of green grass twisted with woolen fibers knit in small knots. When he saw the bird and the gift from his loved ones, Asparuh was so happy that he laced his chest with his wrist and ordered his people to tie a white and red thread for health and heavenly blessings every day (it was March 1).

Another widespread legend is that of Khan Kubrat, who, on his deathbed, gathered his five sons and ordered them to be united and strong and never to be separated. Soon, the Bulgarians were attacked by the Khazars, and Huba, the daughter of Khan Kubrat, was captured. To save her from destruction, her eldest brother, Bayan, acknowledged their superiority and also remained their captive.

Having forgotten their father's covenant, the other brothers parted. One of them headed north and the others headed south. Shortly after, Asparuh, Kuber, and Alzek found free land for their people and sent Huba and Bayan a pigeon, adorned with a gold string. Having received the good news, the captives escaped the tyrant. So they reached the Danube, but only the bird could show them the way to the other side. Bayan took the white thread and tied it to the pigeon's foot. At that moment, however, the Hun pursuers wounded the fugitive, and his blood stained some of the white thread. Fortunately, Khan Asparuh and his soldiers appeared on the other shore, who drove out the attackers and helped Huba and Bayan cross the river.

With the white, stained in places in a blood-red thread, the khan slaughtered each of his troops, ordering the two-colored thread to never be torn, so he would forever connect the Bulgarians.

Martenitsa symbols and customs

Traditionally, white and red are essential for martenitsa. White is a sign of male origin and power, and under the influence of Christianity, joy, purity, and purity (this is the color of Christ). Red is associated with women's onset, health, and conception and birth. It is no accident in our past that women's wedding dresses were red.

In some areas, blue and green threads are used to make the martenitsa. Blue is associated with heaven and water, and symbolizes divine eternity. Green is a sign of fertility, rebirth and celebration.

Martenitsa can also include various elements: beads against lessons, money for well-being, shells of snails for health and strength.

One of the oldest and most traditional martenitsi is the one with male and female figures, with the strange names Pizzo and Penda, joined by twisted white and red thread.

According to the beliefs, martenitza preserves lessons and diseases. They are removed only after we see a stork, a swallow or a flowering tree. In some areas, they hang them on a blossomed branch, in other places they throw it into the river to let them go on the water and all the bad flows. On the martenitsa, she guesses. They put it under stone and after 9 days, if there is "any kind of mercury", then the year will be healthy and fruitful.

It is also widespread lately to choose a day from March, if it is sunny, then the year will be successful, if it is raining or the weather is bad, there are difficulties.

Also interesting are the various names of martenitsa in different parts of Bulgaria. In Blagoevgrad and Dobrich they call it simply "Martha", in Central North Bulgaria, "gadalushka", and in Northwestern Bulgaria they often call it "kitty".

However we call it, the martenitsa is one of the most characteristic and beloved Bulgarian symbols. Surviving for millennia, it remains one of the most distinctive manifestations of folklore and Bulgarian.

Happy Baba Marta!

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