Mărţişor: A Romanian tradition

On the 1st of March, everywhere in Romania is the tradition of “Mărţişor”.

The “Mărţişor” is a Romanian tradition and it comes under the shape of a small amulet with a red and white string attached to it, an item which is given to friends, family and colleagues on the 1st of March.

As a herald of spring, the “Mărţişor” is also a lucky charm and a symbol of the rebirth of nature after winter.

Generally, women and girls are the ones who receive the “Mărţişor” and wear it.

However, there are regions in Romania where the tradition of giving a “Mărţişor” is different. For example, in Moldova, it is customary for the girls to give these spring symbols to boys.

Besides offering “Mărţişor” as a present, on the 1st of March many Romanians also give flowers, particularly snowdrops, a flower that is an important symbol of the spring season.

The “Mărţişor” tradition is an ancient one. Archaeologists claim that people living here have been practicing it for thousands of years. They discovered small pebbles which had been painted red and white and worn as necklaces.

These two colors are essential to the “Mărţişor” tradition. Red is said to symbolize the vitality of women or spring, while white is a symbol for the wisdom of the men or winter.

There is also a legend that explains how this red and white thread came to symbolize the arrival of spring. Once upon a time, the Sun came down to Earth under the shape of a beautiful woman, then captured and kept as prisoner by an ogre.

Due to the absence of the Sun from the sky, the days were dark and cold leading to a lot of suffering among the people. That is why a brave man decided to set out and free the Sun and fought hard against the evil ogre.

During the battle, the man was injured and his blood fell on the snow, but eventually managed to win and free the Sun. As the Sun ascended back on the sky, the snow started to melt and where the blood from the hero had fallen, snowdrops grew, marking the beginning of spring.

Worn either as a bracelet or as a brooch, on the last day of March the “Mărţişor” is taken off and the red and white string is then tied around the branches of a tree or hung by the windows, doors or the horns of the animals in the household, as a bringer of abundance and to ward off evil spirits.

Besides Romania, a similar celebration as the Romanian “Mărţişor” exists also in the Republic of Moldova, Bulgaria, Albania and Macedonia.

We at the BTrip Bucharest Free Walking Tour are also celebrating “Mărţişor” with many surprises for our guests as part of this wonderful spring tradition.