Best Wishes for Grandma March

Dear friends,

The beginning of March is celebrated in Bulgaria with the exchange of Martenitsa, traditional amulets thought to bring a good and fruitful year.

Many Bulgarians believe that the intertwined red and white yarn of martenitzi hold special power. The red protects against disease and the white ensures a long, healthy life. On March 1st, people exchange the martenitzi, saying, “Chestita Baba Marta,” or “Best Wishes for Grandma March,” and then express their wishes of health and happiness for the other person.

In Bulgaria, March is personified by Baba Marta, a formidable old woman. She is considered the most powerful month of the year because she brings back spring and renews life. When she is happy the sun shines, and when she is mad it gets cloudy. March customs are practiced to please Baba Marta. Some Bulgarians do a thorough spring-cleaning because, according to legend, Baba Marta only visits clean houses.

According to tradition, everyone must wear their martenitzi until they see a stork. Much like Groundhog Day, the first sighting of a stork returning from its long winter in the north symbolizes the return of spring. At this sighting, a Bulgarian takes off his or her martenitza and hangs it on the nearest tree branch, an action believed to make the tree fruitful. 

Although wearing martenitzi is only a symbolic tradition and each person wears them for different reasons, Bulgarians are united in the belief that the martenitza brings good luck and the promise of a long, healthy life.

Chestita Baba Marta,
Josette Hendrix