Mărţişor is considered the symbol of spring, and on March 1 is the Romanian celebration of spring. On the first day of March, we enjoy the nature return to life, giving flowers and Mărţişor. It is also celebrated by other East European nations, found under the name of Martenitsa, мартеница or μάρτης.
Giving this talisman to people is an old custom, and it is believed that the wearer will be strong and healthy for the year to come. It is also a symbol of the coming spring. In modern times, and especially in urban areas, the Mărțișor lost most of its talisman properties and became more a symbol of friendship, love, appreciation and respect.
Some ethnologists believe that Mărțișor has a Roman origin, while others believe it has a Daco-Thracian origin. It is a custom believed to have emerged during the Roman Empire, when the New Year was celebrated on the first day of spring, in the month of Mars, and thus literally meaning “little March”. Mars was not only the god of war but also fertility and vegetation. This duality is noted in the colours of the Mărţişor, the white meaning peace and the red war, but also love for all that is beautiful, red and health and the purity of the snowdrop, the first flower of spring, the white, the colours of the braided string that make up the Mărţişor in its classic form.
Originally, the Mărţişor was a coin made of gold or silver, to which was attached a string made of two twisted yarns (one red and one white). Moreover, there is a belief that this amulet brings luck and happiness. The girls wore it for twelve days pinned at the chest or around their neck, and then caught it in their hair and kept it until the first tree was blossoming (usually by the end of March). After that, the string was tied to the branches of a fruit-tree twig, and with the coin, they bought sweet cheese, so their face will be beautiful and white for the whole year. In some areas, the purpose of wearing Mărţişor is to bring the sun closer. You become a friend of the sun, which in return will share its power, beauty, joy and health, honour and love. Giving a Mărţişor is like giving a piece of sunshine.
Another habit in the countryside is for the peasants to give the children Mărţişor to be clean as silver and not be shattered by cold or flu, and the girls wear it so the sun doesn't burn their faces. Moreover, those who do not wear it, they will wither and look older faster. The people of the countryside also know that the Mărţişor must be treated as a holy thing, not as an ornament or a toy.
Tradition says the Mărţişor must be tied on the sunrise on the first day of March. It is worn from March 1 until the spring shows up, the cuckoo singing is heard, until the cherries or roses blossom, till the storks or swallows come. Afterwards, the Mărţişor is not thrown away, but it is tied to a rose or a blooming tree to bring us good luck.
Do you have friends, acquaintances or relatives of Romanian, Moldavian, Macedonian, Greek or Bulgarian origin? Do you want to surprise them? Then this is the gift you are looking for. On March 1, give the 'Martisor', 'Martenitsa ", 'мартеница ' or 'μάρτης' to them and they will be surprised and delighted. Do not forget to leave one “Martisor” for yourself.
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