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Today’s Memory – Mărţişor

Mărţişor – one of the most representatives of Romania’s traditions

March 1st

The Mărţişor, a spring trinket, a tiny adornment tied with a red and white entwined cord presented on March 1, is one of the most representative Romanian traditions also adopted in towns and cities, roots back 8,000 years, when people use to present each other red and white pebbles in a string.

Martisor, a genuine Romanian holiday, celebrates the arrival of spring. Women and girls receive these spring symbols on March 1st, Martisor’s Day. It is believed to bring joy and good luck. In Bukovina (north-eastern Romanian province) there are men who receive martisor. The spring trinket is worn for a week or two, on outer garments.

Martisor-1aIt is a red and white entwined cord, the red one symbolises the winter and the white one the spring, which other symbols of good luck such as a three-leafed clove, chimney sweeper or a heart are tied by.

Archaeological discoveries revealed that the first spring day was celebrated even 8,000 years ago. Roman time’s Martisor were white and red pebbles in a string.

Likewise, in ancient times, they were coins tied by black and white wool threads. Gold, silver or bronze coins were chosen depending on the social status. They were worn round the neck or the wrist and were later named marts or martigus (diminutives for March).

The Dacians (Romanians’ ancestors) believed these amulets brought fertility, beauty and prevented sunburns and they wore them when the trees started blooming and they were later hung on the tree twigs.

Folklore scientists found Martisor variants in the ancient civilization as well and they think they are directly related to God Mars’ heralds, because it was on Mars ides when snow was not melted yet throughout the Roman Empire, when military campaigns could start. Therefore, red and white means exactly that day, as well as vitality and victory, on one hand and purification and inauguration on the other.

It was also said that white and red were strong amulets against evil eye and a token of purity and innocence.

The Romanian folkloric tradition also relates Martisor to the legend of Baba Dochia.

Martisor custom is part of the ritual scenario of the time’s renewal, Dochia’s symbolic death and birth. According to other traditions it was even Dochia who was spinning the threads while she was driving the sheep back up to the mountains. Thus, because Martisor is inseparable from Dochia tradition in the Carpathians we can certainly say it is a very old Romanian custom found in all the areas where Romanians and Aromanians live, later taken over by other south-eastern European peoples.

Source: Romanian National News Agency AGERPRES –

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