Martenitsa (Bulgarian: мартеница, pronounced [ˈmartɛnit͡sa]; plural мартеници martenitsi) is a small piece of adornment, made of white and red yarn and worn from March 1 until around the end of March (or the first time an individual sees a stork, swallow, or budding tree). The name of the holiday is Baba Marta. "Baba" (баба) is the Bulgarian word for "grandmother" and Mart (март) is the Bulgarian word for the month of March. Baba Marta is a Bulgarian tradition related to welcoming the upcoming spring. The month of March, according to Bulgarian folklore, marks the beginning of springtime. Therefore, the first day of March is a traditional holiday associated with sending off winter and welcoming spring.
The same tradition is also held by thοse in the Republic of Macedonia, as well as in Greek Macedonia and Patras in the Peloponnese. Romanians also have a similar but not identical holiday on March 1, called "Mărţişor". If and how these two holidays are related is still a matter of debate between ethnologists.
The red and white woven threads symbolize the wish for good health. 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, thus some ethnologists have proposed 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.
On the first day of March and for a few days afterwards, Bulgarians exchange and wear white and red tassels or small dolls called "Пижо и Пенда" (Pizho and Penda). In Bulgarian folklore the name Baba Marta (in Bulgarian баба Марта meaning Grandma March) is related to a grumpy old lady whose mood swings change very rapidly.
This is an old pagan tradition that remains almost unchanged today. The common belief is that 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. Many people wear more than one martenitsa. They receive them as presents from relatives, close friends and colleagues. Martenitsa is usually worn pinned on the clothes, near the collar, or tied around the wrist. The tradition calls for wearing the martenitsa until the person sees a stork or a blooming tree. The stork is considered a harbinger of spring and as evidence that Baba Marta is in a good mood and is about to retire.
The ritual of finally taking off the martenitsa may be different in different parts of Bulgaria. Some people would tie their martenitsa on a branch of a fruit tree, thus giving the tree health and luck, which the person wearing the martenitsa has enjoyed himself while wearing it. Others would put the martenitsa under a stone with the idea that the kind of creature (usually an insect) closest to the token the next day will determine the person's health for the rest of the year. If the creature is a larva or a worm, the coming year will be healthy, and full of success. The same luck is associated with an ant, the difference being that the person will have to work hard to reach success. If the creature near the token is a spider, then the person is in trouble and may not enjoy luck, health, or personal success.
The martenitsa is also a stylized symbol of Mother Nature. During early-spring/late-winter, nature seems full of hopes and expectations. The white symbolizes the purity of the melting white snow and the red symbolizes the setting of the sun which becomes more and more intense as spring progresses. These two natural resources are the source of life. They are also associated with the male and female beginnings.
Wearing one or more martenitsi is a very popular Bulgarian tradition. The martenitsa symbolises new life, conception, fertility, and spring. The time during which it is worn is meant to be a joyful holiday commemorating health and long life. The colours of the martenitsa are interpreted as symbols of purity and life, as well as the need for harmony in Nature and in people's lives.
The tradition is related to the ancient pagan history of Balkan Peninsula and to all agricultural cults of nature. Some of the specific features of the ritual and especially tying the twisted white and red woolen thread, are a result of centuries-old tradition and suggest Thracian (paleo-Balkan ) Hellenic or even Roman origin.
Martenitsi are always given as gifts. People never buy martenitsi for themselves. They are given to loved ones, friends, and those people to whom one feels close. They are worn on clothing, or around the wrist or neck, until the wearer sees a stork or swallow returning from migration, or a blossoming tree, and then removes the Martenitsa and hangs it on a blossoming tree. 
- ^ Център по тракология "Проф. Александър Фол"; Енциклопедия Древна Тракия и траките - Мартеницата, Ваня Лозанова.
- ^ През 30те години на 20-ти век се създава легендата, която свързва появата на мартеницата с прабългарите. Тя гласи, че, когато хан Аспарух побеждава Византийските войници, той написва писмо за победата си и го връзва за крака на една птица с бял конец. Докато летяла обаче, птицата била забелязана от византийски войници, които стреляли по нея и я ранили. Въпреки че била ранена тя пристигнала успешно в българския лагер, но белият конец вече бил отчасти червен от кръвта, от раната. И от там е възникнала мартеницата, която се носи днес. При всички случаи Баба Марта в българските традиции е един митологичен символ на пролетта. Традицията е свързана с древната езическа история от Балканския полуостров и с всички земеделски култове към природата. Някои от най-специфичните черти на първомартенската обредност и особено завързването на усуканите бяла и червена вълнени нишки, са плод на многовековна традиция и навеждат към тракийски (палеобалканскаи) и елински, а дори и за римски произход. За това говори и разпространението на мартеницата в небългарски етнически общности.
- "Пожелания за Баба Марта". Wishes for Baba Marta ( Wishes for Grandma Marta). http://pojelaniq-bg.net/pojelaniq-za-baba-marta.html.
- "Bulgarian martenitsi online store". Bulgarian Folk Art. http://www.martenitsi.com/martenitsi2.html. Retrieved 2011-02-18.
- "Baba Marta (Grandma Marta)". Balkan Info. http://www.b-info.com/places/Bulgaria/BabaMarta/. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
- Baba Marta. "Bulgarian Martenitsa". http://infobulgariaguide.com/bulgarian-martenitsa. Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- "Baba Marta Bulgarian custom". http://www.balkanfolk.com/news.php?id=43&name=Grandmother+Marta%2C+traditional+Bulgarian+custom+%28Baba+Marta%29.
- "Reading Room: The martenitsa story". The Sofia Echo. http://sofiaecho.com/article/reading-room-the-martenitsa-story/id_27856/catid_29. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
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