Grandma Martha is one of the most revered Bulgarian rites. It is a centuries-long Bulgarian tradition symbolizing the end of winter and the coming spring. On the first of March people exchange martenitsi - twisted red and white threads - and make wishes for health and happiness. The white woolen thread signifies long life and well-being and the red one - health and strength.
People never buy a martenitsa for themselves - they are always given as gifts. Martenitsi are worn on clothing, around the wrist or neck. Sometimes people adorn their home with martenitsa tassels as a token of abundance and prosperity. All martenitsi are worn until the wearer sees a stork or a swallow returning from migration. Then the martenitsa is removed and put on a blossoming tree.
There are numerous legends about the origin of this tradition. The oldest one dates back to 681. Khan Asparukh, who established the first Bulgarian Empire, won an important battle over the Byzantine and wrote a letter to inform his people. He attached it to a pigeon's leg with a white thread. While flying, the pigeon was hurt by an enemy arrow, but nonetheless succeeded in delivering the message. The white thread, with which the letter was attached, had been half soaked in blood and became the symbol of life and prosperity.
In any case Granny Martha symbolizes the new beginning. The nature wakes up from long winter sleep and the people welcome the upcoming spring. Thanks to my boyfriend's sweet mom and a cute friend of mine, we too have martenitsi here in Austria and we follow this beautiful bulgarian custom. Chestita Baba Martha to you all, I wish you health and happiness! Spring is almost here! :)
Честита Баба Марта! :)