Red-Letter Day of the Month: Baba Marta

Baba Marta, or Granny March, is in Bulgarian folklore tradition an old lady who chases out winter and brings on spring

Photo: Petko Yotov (Wikimedia Commons)  

She has a bit of a temper, and in order to please her, your house should be clean, your carpets beaten and your chimney swept.

In some places elderly women stay at home and send out younger girls for errands, because Baba Marta will be so much more pleased if she meets a young girl on the road.

A more general form of observance of the day is the wearing of a mártenica — tassels of red and white wool in the form of two more or less stylicised dolls, or a bracelet of red and white wool, twisted to the left, never to the right.

This should be worn until you have seen the first stork. A swallow will also do, or you may tie your martenica to a branch of a budding tree.

 Tree with martenicas on Carevec Hill, Veliko T─ârnovo. Photo: Todor Bozhinov (Flickr/Creative Commons)

The martenica is considered the most typical Bulgarian custom, practised by as good as every man, woman and child in the country — as well as a number of dogs, cows and sheep, and it has developed into an art form on the level of Easter eggs.

However, similar rituals are found in Moldova, Romania, Macedonia, and Greece.

Published Aug. 24, 2010 11:28 AM - Last modified Aug. 24, 2010 2:46 PM