The legend of the Martenitsa
If you visit Bulgaria on the first of March, you are certain to notice almost all people are decorated with small token which is made from red and white woollen threads called Martenitsa.
Then from late March until to mid-April, you will see that many fruit trees and bushes are decorated are with these Martenitsas.
March 1 is the Baba Marta day in Bulgaria – on the first of March, and the days following, all people give to each other red-and-white ribbons or small woollen dolls called Pizho (the male character) and Penda (the female one), also known as Martenitzi. They are so named because they bring the name of March, or in Bulgarian – Mart.
According to tradition, Marta (the female variation of the word Mart) is an angry old lady who rapidly changes her mood from bad to good and back again such as the weather during that month. She is popular all around as Grandmother Marta (in Bulgarian Baba Marta).
There are many stories about the meaning of the red-and-white symbols of the Martenitsas – the most popular is:
Many centuries ago, Bulgarian ruler Khan Asparuh left his home in the distant Tibet Mountains to search fertile land for his people to live on. He passed through many rivers and mountains until he finally reached the lands of the Slavs, who greeted him and his people as dear guests. Slav women, wearing white outfits brought drinks, while the tables were full of foods – everything that grows on that blessed land. But the Khan was sad and homesick and he missed his mother and his sister Kalina. He sat on the riverbank and prayed with tears of water and sun for a miracle.
And it did happen! A swallow landed on his shoulder and the Khan shared all his sadness to her. Then the swallow flew away, back to the lands the Bulgarian Khan came from, and with a human voice it told Kalina. The Khan’s sister, that her brother found a new land for his kingdom but he is misses her so much and sends his best feelings… Kalina was so happy to hear that and she decided to send her brother a token that she had got the news. She made a small bunch from some green bush; she bound it with a white woollen thread and sent the swallow to take that bunch back to her brother.
The swallow flew fast and very soon it landed on the Khan’s shoulder again. But due to the long flight his wing was hurt and some blood drops on the white woollen thread. The Khan was so happy to see the green bunch and he pinned the bunch on his chest.
The Khan ordered to all his people to pin a small bunch of red and white thread on the same day of the year on the first day of March for health and wellbeing. Since then the tradition is respected to nowadays.