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All about Mărțișor - the most popular Romanian tradition at the beginning of spring

All about Mărțișor - the most popular Romanian tradition at the beginning of spring

In Romania, the "Mărțișorul" symbolizes the arrival of spring and is celebrated every year on the first day of March. At the heart of the celebration are the marzipan, made up of a red and a white braided thread that together bear the name of the celebration. It is believed that wearers are protected by the magical powers of this object. The marzipan is derived from the word 'Mart', an old folk word for March, literally meaning 'little March'.
Some ethnological experts believe that the Marzipan is of Roman origin, while others believe it is of Daco-Thracian origin.

  • History

Since ancient times, people have celebrated spring with long-forgotten rituals. They used small pebbles painted white and red alternately on a string. In those days, some magical rituals involved sacrificing animals to get their pagan gods to listen to their prayers, blood being associated with life, fertility and prayer. On the other hand, snow, ice and clouds were white. In one expression the meaning of two colours could be: 'let us forget winter and pray to our gods to bring us fertility'.

In the early 19th century people wore the beautiful amulet around their necks or on their left hand, which consisted of two strands of wool (one red, one white) knitted together and a small silver or gold coin hanging from them. It was believed that those who wore the Amulet were protected and would have good luck in the coming year.
For the last two centuries, the tradition in Romania has mainly revolved around the object of the same name, often consisting of a piece of string coloured red and white and sometimes tied around a pebble, coin or jewellery.

  • Tradition

These items are usually gifted during the March 1 holiday by close friends and family as a token of friendship, respect and admiration. On receiving the gift, women pin the item to their clothes, usually around their breast pockets, wearing it close to their hearts until the end of March. As March draws to a close, the marzipan is hung on a fruit tree and is said to bring wealth to the original owner.

  • Legend

There are many legends that explain this beautiful tradition.

A legend says that once in a fight with the winter witch, who wouldn't give up her seat, the beautiful lady spring cut off her finger and a few drops of her blood fell on the melting snow. Soon a snowdrop grew on the spot, indicating that spring had won the battle against winter.

Another legend concerns Dragomir.
Dragomir is Dochia's son who marries a girl whom Baba Dochia does not approve of and who, in revenge, sends his new daughter-in-law to wash black wool in a stream. Dochia tells her not to return until the black wool has turned white. No matter how much she washes, the wool doesn't change color, and the girl begins to weep in despair, worrying that she will never see her husband again. Seeing her from heaven, Jesus comes down and gives the girl a red flower, telling her to wash the wool with it. Miraculously, this works, and the girl returns happily home to her husband and Baba Dochia. Baba Dochia is upset that spring has come, because flowers only bloom in spring, and goes to the mountains dressed in new clothes. As the days get warmer, she leaves the clothes behind, until the last day when the weather changes and Dochia is left frozen on the mountain without her clothes.


5 lesser-known facts about beads

A sign of unity
In the beginning, the beads were made of black and white woollen yarn, linking the opposite seasons of summer and winter.

The Dacians wore beads
The Dacian Romans wore beads of red and white stones around their necks.

The meaning behind the colours
Red symbolises the sensuality of women, while white represents the wisdom of men, creating harmony between the two.

Marzipan was considered magical
The Dacians believed that marzipans had healing properties through exposure to the sun, as well as increasing fertility.

See Also

The marzipan in other countries. The tradition of the marzipan is due to the Thracians, so that both Romania and the Republic of Moldova, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia or Albania celebrate on this day the symbol of spring! Many of the traditions of these countries are similar.

In Republic of Moldova, the marzipan is given to both women and men. In popular belief, small objects tied with white and red string are considered good luck. Thus, it is said that people who wear them will be protected against illness or bad luck. Also in Republic of MoldovaThe combination of white and red symbolises the combination of men's strength and feminine spirit.

In Bulgaria, the marzipan is called "marten", and on 1 March, Bulgarians celebrate Baba Marta. The Bulgarian marten is made of the traditional white thread braided with red thread. The difference is that two dolls made of wool are tied to this string. The dolls are called Pizho, the man is white and Penda is red and represents the woman.

In Macedonia, The marzipan is worn on the eve of 1 March. Afterwards, it is tied to the branch of a flowering tree for fruitfulness.

In AlbaniaThe "lidhka" is worn by children from 14 March until the first swallows appear. After that, it is hung on the branch of a tree to ward off evil spirits.

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