In Romania we usually associate the 1st of March with the begining of Spring. Even if the weather looks sometimes more like autumn or winter. But, sunny, cold or rainy, on this very day we always celebrate Martisor.
The name Martisor is the diminutive of Martie (the Romanian for March). Its beginnings are not very well known, but they are usually connected with ancient Rome, where New Year’s Eve was celebrated on the 1st of March.
Among the myths about Martisor, there is one I like most:
On the first day of March, beautiful Spring took a walk in the forrest and during her stroll noticed a snowdrop that was trying to emerge from under the snow; she decided to help it by taking away the snow. Seeing this, Winter got mad and called the wind and the frost to destroy the little flower. The snowdrop got frozen immediately. Spring covered it with her own hands trying to warm and protect it, but her hands were injured. A little drop of her blood touched the flower, bringing it to life again. This way Spring defeated Winter and the white colours of the Martisor string symbolize her red blood on the white snow. White is also the symbol of the purity and delicacy of the snowdrop, the first spring flower.
Over time Martisor has changed its shape, aspect and meaning.
Martisor can be a little decorative object (a flower, an animal, etc.) or even a piece of jewelry and it is sometimes accompanied or even replaced by a bouquet of spring flowers. While some of them are real art objects, there are kitsch ones too.
Producing and selling Martisor has become a real business and many little retailers wait for the big Martisor Fair profits.
On the 1st of March, men usually offer Martisor to women (mothers, sisters, lovers, friends, colleagues and so on); buying the most appropriate one for every person on the “list” it is a genuine struggle for them. Most of the women wear nearly every Martisor they are offered pinned to their blouse on this day and up to two weeks. Ocasionally women give Martisor to men too.
Let me offer a virtual Martisor to all PocketCultures readers and wish you a beautiful Spring!
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About the authorcarmen
9 comments for “Martisor & the Celebration of Spring”
What a lovely custom. I agree with Ana!
Wish you a beautiful spring as well Carmen. Today was sunny for the first time in ages so I can feel spring in the air!
I love customs like this! If I ever get to go to Romania, I hope it is during this time because I think it would be amazing to see all of these Martisor on sale everywhere.
Is this custom celebrated in Bulgaria as well? When I was at school we hosted an exchange with a school in Bulgaria, and our penfriends presented us with Martisor. But I think they called them martinitsa. I still have mine!
Yes this is correct. Current Bulgaria is former Romanian territory occupied by savage Slavs invaders of the Geto Dac territories. Evidently they were civilized by natives and this is the reason of celebrating the tradition.
@ana – indeed a lovely custom (don‘t know if men have the same opinion when they have to buy Martisor for all office colleagues !)
@marie – try your best and come to Romania on Martisor Day – I‘ll be glad to be your guide
@liz – yes this custom is celebrated in Bulgaria too – they sometimes say it‘s a Bulgarian custom and we took it from them. There are some differences, for example in their country men receive Martisor too and this is only made of the red&white string, without the little decorative object
I am planning a presentation on Martisor in my son’s Kindergarten class. Do you know where I could order martisoare here in the States? Ioana