Martenitsas

Pastor Margarita from Sevlievo wrote recently to thank the Circuit for the help it had sent for Svetla and her family. ‘It is a witness to her family of our love and care.’

She also told us about an old Bulgarian custom.

‘Soon it will be 1st March. This day is special in Bulgaria. We call it “Grandma March Day”. On this day we give each other a martenitsa. It is made of white and red cotton or woollen threads. It symbolises good health, long life, fertility and abundance. The white colour symbolises purity, innocence and joy. The red colour symbolises life, health and the fire of love. One of the traditional forms of the martenitsa is of a boy and a girl, called Pizho and Pends respectively. In folk tradition the month of March is personified by a woman – Granny March. Her mood constantly changes and so weather in March also changes quite a lot. We say that when Grandma March is angry, weather is cold, and when she smiles – it is sunny and warm. People wear the martenitsa pinned on the lapel, around the waist or around the neck. They take it off when they see the first stork. If they don’t see one, they take it off on 22 March when spring officially starts.

According to the legend when the Bulgarians led by Khan Asparuh reached the Danub valley (present day North Bulgaria) they were enchanted by the place and decided to settle down there. After declaring the new Bulgarian state the khan decided to make a sacrificial offering to god Tangra. Tradition demanded the sacrificial fire to be lit with a stalk of dried dill but the Bulgarians could not find any. While they were wondering what to do a falcon landed on the khan’s shoulder. It had a stalk of dill tied to its leg with a white woollen thread, half of it red because of the blood dripping from the falcon’s injured wing. The bird had been sent by the khan’s sister who had had a dream of her brother’s predicament. The khan took the dried dill and lit the fire. Then he pinned the white and red thread on his shirt to keep him in good health. Apart from the legend suggestions have been made that the martenitsas are an inheritance from the Thracians who have lived on this territory.

So we are sending a small martenitsa for each one of you wishing you happiness, good health and long life. May God bless you abundantly. While wearing your martenitsa do think of us all, and especially of Svetla and her son.’

 

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