Arriving in Bulgaria during March means witnessing countless wrists covered with the red and white bands of Martenitsa. Worn and exchanged beginning the first of March on the holiday of “Baba Marta” (Grandmother March), these bands are believed to bring health and fortune in the coming spring. The bands are worn by men in business suits, children playing in parks…just about every class and demographic of the population you can imagine.
Not limited to class, sex, or age – Martenitsa isn’t just limited to limbs either. The red and white combinations can be found on the side of buildings, homes, and in trees like the one above, somewhere along the way up Vitosha Mountain.
Martenitsa is one of the first things I noticed in Sofia, so much so that my curiosity – and someone kind enough to indulge it – brought me one for good luck the day after I first inquired about it. Meant to be given and received, the typical Martenitsa is worn until one sees a stork, or a budding tree – although these interpretations vary as they often do with ancient traditions. Whether it’s a stork, blossoming tree, or simply the end of the month, Martenitsas are tied to the nearest tree or bush given the occasion. Or, for travelers, kept in their backpacks for good luck as needed.
This picture is awesome!! Also- what an interesting tradition. I wonder where this tradition sprang from.
From what I’ve read it’s an old Pagan tradition predating Christianity in Bulgaria. There are some variations of it around the Balkans though the Bulgarian version is unique to that country 🙂
Great photo Anil when I first glimpsed at the photo it looked as if it was a tree on fire. Its great to see that everyone from the men to children participating in this. Is there a celebration that accompanies everything?
Not formal celebration that I’m aware of or have heard about and thankfully not trees on fire 🙂
I love country traditions like this. I encountered a bunch in India and it was always fun to participate!
Simple and positive, my kind of tradition 🙂
That’s such a nice tradition!
Bulgaria has so many nice small celebrations and traditions during the year, we’re in Sofia right now but unfortunately there is nothing on at the moment.
I’d love to come back during some traditional celebration some other time.
Too bad you haven’t seen any while you’re there – how long are you in Sofia Sofia? 🙂
The legend refers to the time when khan Asparuh was on the right bank of the Danube river. Bayan his brother and his sister Huba were at that time waiting for him on the left bank and were trying to find a shallow passage through the river to cross it.
So, khan Asparuh tied the end of a white band to the feet of a falcon to fly across and show them the place where they can cross.
Unfortunately an arrow shot by some Khazar archers pierced Bayan and the crimson blood stained the white band, which served as a sign from Asparuh.
After receiving news from his brother and sister Asparuh started tearing the red and white band and tied the threads to the hands of his soldiers. He told his soldiers:
“Let the red and white thread that connects us never get apart.
Let’s be healthy, joyful, happy, let us be Bulgarians “…
Awesome, thanks for sharing!