Mărțișor – “the Foreteller” of Spring – a Romanian Tradition

Mărțișor is a unique Romanian celebration held each year on the 1st of March, to rejoice the beginning of spring. Also bearing the name of Mărțișor is the red and white string with a jewel or an amulet attached to it, which people wear on their chest during the first week of March, or even the whole month.

The word of Mărțișor comes from the old Romanian folk name for March and it is actually a diminutive form, translating as “Little March”.

The ancient symbol of spring, of rebirth and recharging the joy of living, Mărțișor brings back thousand years old traditions and customs.

Traditionally, Mărțișor is attached to the chest or at the wrist at dawn, when the sun is rising. The colors of the string have multiple significations. The colors of red and white would be explained by ancient Romans as colors of war and peace, who celebrated New Year’s Eve on the 1st of March, to honor Mars, god of war and agricultural guardian.

Dacians, on the other hand, assigned each season a representative color: spring was red and winter was white, thus, the Mărțișor string could symbolize the passing from the icy winter to the rejuvenating spring.

In Romanian folklore, white suggests the sober and reasoning masculinity, while red indicates the feminine sensuality, love and joy. Femininity and masculinity combined lead to a mending season between winter and summer, warmth fuses with coldness, thus creating a perfect union.

Mărțișor is like a talisman which brings good luck and defends the wearer from the evil. The first form of this amulet was a golden or silver coin attached to the string, but with the passing of time, Mărțișor evolved in numerous other forms, be it flowers, chimney sweepers, snowdrops, jewels, ladybugs, horseshoes, four-leaf clovers or other figurines. These are usually made out of wood, metal, ceramics or textiles.

As part of this yearly tradition, women and girls are gifted such a Mărțișor from men, whereas in Moldova, this custom is reversed, girls being the one who give one to the boys. Another custom is offering a bouquet of the seasonal flower, the snowdrop.

Another tradition dear to every Romanian is choosing a “Babă” (old lady) out of the first 9 days of March. Legend says that Baba Dochia, a mythological figure which identifies as people’s impatience for the return of spring, teases the month of March by getting rid of her 9 coats day by day. Each person chooses a “baba” out of the 9 days and, the story goes that depending on the weather of that day, sunny or cloudy, so will the person’s rest of the year be.

Therefore, choose your Baba wisely! Come to Romania and be a part of its never-before-seen traditions, customs, myths and legends!

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Stefania Tripe
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” ― Stephen King.

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