When I left Romania for moving to Berlin, I knew I will terribly miss some things: first of all, friends, my dancing classes, food, places but also a couple of traditions we have as Romanians. And one of those ancient Romanian customs is called “Martisor”, the arrival of spring celebration.
It is celebrated every year on March 1st, and his name means “little march” – “Martie” is the name for the month of March in Romanian.
This day, all the women should wear a “Martisor” – a little jewelry with a silky red-white twisted thread tied into a bow (red means winter and white spring), so they will have a lucky and joyful year ahead. Martisor, the symbol of the coming spring, it is worn until the last day of March and then hanged on a tree. The red and white threads symbolize the duality spring/winter, warm/cold, light/darkness.
These days, men give women the Martisor, as a sign of respect, friendship, appreciation, and love. Also, it can be offered with a snowdrop bouquet, another spring symbol in Romania.
Even though today Martisor is more of a commercial custom, especially in the urban areas, his roots are dating more than 8000 years ago: in ancient Rome, the first month of the year was March / Martius, called this way in honor of Mars – the god of war and the protector of the agriculture.
There are also some popular stories and legends about Martisor:
The legend of Baba Dochia
Baba Dochia (The Old Dochia) is a legendary figure in a Romanian folklore. Once upon a time, in a terrible winter day, Baba Dochia gave to her beautiful step-daughter a soiled coat asking her to wash it at the river until it becomes white as snow. The girl tried to wash it in the frozen waters of the river, but as she washes it, the coat became darker and darker. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man, named Martisor, came close to her and asked her why she was crying. He offered her a red and white flower, and told her to wash again the coat, putting the flower in the water. And, magically, the coat turned white and bright. When she arrived home, Baba Dochia couldn’t believe her eyes. She saw the flower in the girl’s hair and asked her “Where did you have it from? It’s still winter!”
Having thought the spring had already come, Baba Dochia took her sheep and went to the mountain. She took also her twelve coats. On the way, the weather was sunny and beautiful, so she got off the coats she was wearing. But in the end, she was caught by the drizzle and bad weather. When she reached the peak, she met Martisor: “Do you see now how bad it’s staying in this weather, in the cold and drizzle? So why did you force your daughter to wash the clothes on the river on a weather like this?” Then he disappeared. The old lady and the sheep got frozen and then turned into stones. You can see those stone formations even today, on Bucegi Mountains plateau.
Since then, red and white symbolize the struggle between good and evil, between winter and spring.
That’s just one of the many legends we have in Romania and I’m glad I’ve shared it with you. So, wear a “Martisor” today or just keep your face towards the sunshine and let yourself feel the fresh air of spring.
Cause no matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.
You can also read here more stories and legends about the places I’ve been.