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Marteniçka, Martipi or Martenitsa is the name given to the bracelets and ornaments worn on the wrists from 1 March throughout the month of March in the Balkan and Thrace geography. Although it is known as an old Bulgarian tradition, Marteniçka is a spring ritual known throughout the Balkan geography and even celebrated in Turkey every year due to Balkan immigrants.

These jewelry, called martenitsa or martenichka, are unique to the “Father Marta” holiday, which celebrates the arrival of spring. Let’s talk about the tradition of Baba Marta and martenitsa, which is based on an ancient Pagan belief.

Baba Marta (Marta Nine) is a mythological character associated with the month of March in Bulgarian folklore. In Bulgarian mythology, the first three months of the year are characterized as brothers. While Big Seçko (January) and Little Seçko (February) are shown as two mischievous brothers, Baba Marta (March) is referred to as their older sisters, who cannot be predicted when they will be smiling and angry. The weather turns bad as Father Marta gets angry with her siblings who either drink her wine or commit a big mischief.

granny MARTA, who doesn’t like old people
According to a famous folk tale, an old shepherd woman takes her flock to the mountain in the last days of March, thinking that Baba Marta will reward her with good weather because she is old like herself. However, Baba Marta gets angry and asks her other sister Nisan to borrow money for a few days. These days are known as “borrow days” in folk tradition. Marta causes strong storms and snow to freeze the old woman and her herd of goats on the mountain. The frozen ones turn into a mass of stones and a healing water flows from here.
Baba Marta holiday symbolizes spring according to Bulgarian tradition and brings health and fertility wishes at the beginning of the new period of nature. The feast, which is connected with the Pagan history of the Balkan peninsula and agricultural nature cults, begins with the celebration called “Baba Marta burning”, which is held on the last Saturday and Sunday of February at the end of the winter season. In these celebrations, it is believed that winter and evil are driven out by burning big fires in the villages, and people begin to prepare for the coming spring.
During March, celebrations are held that are believed to please Father Marta. Women, young girls and children participate in these celebrations. It is thought that Baba Marta does not like old women. On March 1, the oldest woman in the house must clean the house from top to bottom before sunrise and hang a red cloth outside. In this way, the Father wishes good luck to the house and its inhabitants, making Marta happy. Young people should go out as soon as possible so that “Father Martha will see them and be happy”, while older women should stay at home “not to anger Father Marta”. In the gardens, metal tools are struck and circles are drawn to the accompaniment of folk songs, it is believed that snakes and lizards are expelled in this way.

According to another tradition, everyone chooses a day for himself from the 1st to the 22nd of March, and according to the weather conditions on that day, the year will be predicted: If the weather is sunny and warm, the year will be happy and lucky, if it is cloudy and cold, a difficult year awaits him. In addition, elders gather to make predictions about migratory birds. Father Marta is honored on the 1st, 9th and 25th of March, which is considered sacred.
Undoubtedly the most famous tradition associated with Baba Marta is the symbols called martenitsa, which are worn from March 1, the day of Father Marta’s arrival. On the first day of March, Bulgarians present martenitsas to their relatives and friends, wishing them health and strength throughout the year. According to tradition, martenitsas are not removed until a swallow, stork, or a blooming fruit tree is seen. Martenitsas made of red and white wool are also given different shapes such as tassels, balls and people. The figures that have the most important place in the history of the Martenitsa are the male and female puppets made of red and white yarn, known as “Pijo and Penda”. The white color used in Martenitsa symbolizes longevity, and the red color symbolizes health and strength. In some regions, these twisted red-white threads are used as evil eye beads to protect against diseases by tying gold or silver coins.
According to another tradition, the martenitsa is put under a stone and predictions are made for the next year by looking at which insect arrives the next morning: The worm symbolizes health and a successful year, while the ant means that it will take hard work to achieve success; spider means bad luck.

Baba Marta is one of the most revered traditions in Bulgaria, preserved to this day. This holiday is called “Çestita Baba Marta!” in Bulgarian. It is celebrated by saying (Happy Father Martha). The tradition of wearing Martenitsa is known in Bulgaria as well as parts of Romania, Moldova, Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Greece and Ukraine. In Romania, women and children tie the martenitsa to their wrists, while men can carry it in a hidden place. In Greece, only children carry martenitsa. In Bulgaria, martenitsas are tied to collars or wrists, as well as to fruit trees and newborn animals, by men and women as well as children. It is thought that the Martenitsas were first seen in the Protobulgars.

It has been observed that the holiday has been commercialized in recent years, although tradition dictates that martenitsa should never be purchased. In mid-February, sales of martenitsa usually begin in the centers of large cities. The tradition of homemade martenitsa is being replaced by products imported from China, which are several times cheaper than other martenitsas on the market. Among the rich variety of martenitsa models stand out the unorthodox vulgar images of famous pop-folk singers, fairy-tale and cartoon heroes, and even the right-wing politician Boyko Borisov, the former personal bodyguard of the communist leader Todor Zhivkov.

Baba Marta is a supra-racial and religious holiday. It is celebrated in the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity by all Balkan and Thrace peoples, regardless of Bulgarian, Turkish, Pomak, Gypsy and Christian, Muslim or atheist. Cestita Baba Marta!

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