Bulgarians all over the world celebrate the centuries-old legend of Baba Marta on March 1. On this day, it is tradition to exchange what is called a martenitsa. This consists of red and white colored strings interwoven and gifted to friends and family as a symbol of health, happiness, and gratitude.
History of Baba Marta
Baba Marta or Granda March is a Bulgarian legend. Known as a feisty woman, her story revolves around a grudge she held against her siblings, January and February. There are different versions of this tale, depending on what children are told when growing up. It is also believed that the Sun would only shine when she smiled. In one version of the story, Baba Marta prepares for spring by cleaning. She shakes the sheets and mattress one last time before the following winter, causing all the filling to scatter on the ground like snow, signifying the end of the snowfall for the year. Baba Marta is also found in German folklore, for example, in the story of ‘Frau Holle.’
A martenitsa consists of interwoven red and white threads that are mostly fashioned into wristbands, tassels, or yarn dolls. These creations are worn on the holiday as well as throughout March. Almost everyone in Bulgaria and the surrounding areas can be seen wearing martenitsa. The tradition is to continue wearing these wristlets until a swallow or stork is seen. Martenitsa is then removed and hung on trees to signify the arrival of spring. For the rest of the season, trees can be seen adorned with these symbolic adornments.
The holiday has pagan origins and remains one of the oldest traditions still practiced in Christian Europe.
Baba Marta timeline
Some sociologists and anthropologists date the custom to the Eleusinian Mysteries, ancient initiation ceremonies relating to agriculture and described as the "most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece."
Photios 1, an influential churchman in Constantinople mentions the custom in his Lexicon.
A Bulgarian story connects the first martenitsa to the seventh-century Battle of Ongal where doves with white threads spattered with blood from the fight are sent to announce the victory, creating the first martenitsa.
Known as Martenitsa in Bulgaria, it is entered UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Baba Marta FAQs
Who celebrates Baba Marta?
Baba Marta is primarily a Bulgarian holiday but is also celebrated in other parts of Europe.
How do you say Happy Baba Marta in Bulgarian?
The correct greeting for saying Happy Baba Marta is ‘Chestita Baba Marta.’
Which countries celebrate the Martenitsa?
North Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Moldova, and Romania all celebrate it.
Baba Marta Activities
Clean your house
It is customary to prepare for the arrival of Baba Marta and spring by cleaning out the home. What are you waiting for? Get cleaning!
Gift a Martenitsa
Buy one or try and make one yourself. You can then gift it to someone special as a symbol of good fortune for the coming season.
Host a feast
Celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring by hosting a feast for friends and family. Include Bulgarian foods such as mish-mash, kavarma, and drusan kebab.
5 Interesting Facts About Martenitsa
It is an accessory
Martenitsa are normally pinned to clothes or tied on the wrist.
They are hung on trees afterward
After the arrival of spring, martenitsa are hung on trees as symbols of health and prosperity.
Knitting them is part of the fun
Weaving martenitsa on the eve of the holiday is considered a tradition.
The intertwined colors symbolize fertility
The red and white intertwined threads signify a male and female, and the fruit of their union.
The separate colors have a meaning too
White symbolizes melting snow, whereas the color red represents the setting of the Sun.
Why We Love Baba Marta
Baba Marta is a legend
There's much folklore about Baba Marta or Grandma March. The story has been enjoyed for as long as Bulgarians can remember, and deserves to be honored for many years to come.
It heralds the arrival of spring
Baba Marta brings with her the brightness and warmth of spring. The celebration looks forward to the changing season and the prosperity it will bring with it.
It is a uniquely Bulgarian holiday
There aren’t many dedicated holidays for Bulgaria, so Baba Marta Day is a special one. It is more than just a holiday, it showcases some of the many traditions of Bulgarians.
Baba Marta dates