Baba Marta

Baba Marta 2012

 Throughout the world people celebrate the arrival of spring with joy and hope, and in Bulgaria traditions of ancient times are respected.
If on March 1 you happen to walk on Bulgarian streets, you are sure to meet a lot of smiling people. But first of all you will notice a lot of martenitsas. Martenitsa is a small piece of traditional Bulgarian adornment, made of white and red yarn. They are usually made of wool, silk or cotton. Often they are decorated with blue beads, gold coins, shells, garlic or threads of other colors. They are used to decorate houses and even pets. They are the heralds of the coming of spring in Bulgaria and life in general. While white as a color symbolizes purity, red is a symbol of life and passion, so it is believed that in its very origins, the custom might have reminded people of the constant cycle of life and death, the balance of good and evil, and of the sorrow and happiness in human life.
In the old pagan days martenitsa was used as an amulet, which protects from evil spirits. Today it is just a decoration that symbolizes the arrival of spring.
Martenitsa's name is associated with the mythical Baba Marta, who represents the spring and the sun (in Bulgarian баба Марта means Grandma March). According to the belief Baba Marta is a grumpy old lady whose mood swings change very rapidly. When she smiles - the sun is shining, but when she frowns, cold freezes the ground. That's why most rituals are followed to please Baba Marta and by wearing the red and white colours of the martenitsa people ask Baba Marta for mercy. They hope that it will make winter pass faster and bring spring.
People also believe that Baba Marta visits only very clean and tidy homes. That is why at the end of February everybody is busy cleaning their houses. It is symbolic to get rid of all the bad, old and useless things left over from last year.
Baba Marta is also picky about people whom she will see on the 1st of March. Old people tend not to go out early in the morning on that day, because they do not want to irritate Baba Marta. She likes to see young women and girls that symbolize warm and beautiful weather.
Also Baba Marta enjoys seeing people who are wearing martenitsas. On the 1st of March it is obligatory to wear martenitsas, especially for small children, honeymooners or newborn pets. Martenitsas are also tied around the fruit trees, doors and door handles.
They are worn from March 1 until around the end of March or the first time an individual sees a stork, swallow, or budding tree.
Once taken off a martenitsa loses its magical qualities and stops being an amulet.
Taking off a martenitsa marks an important milestone - the end of winter and the transition to positive change.
That's why every Bulgarian on March 1 wears a martenitsa, symbolizing the belief that from that day everything will change for the better.

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