Mărțișor is an old tradition celebrated all over Romania every year, on March 1st.
Whenever I think about it, I remember the joy of creating this lucky charm at school and offering it to my teacher and my mother.
The name Mărțișor is a diminutive of March (Martie in Romanian).
People believe that the person who wears the red and white string would enjoy a prosperous and healthy year.
In the countryside, people used to celebrate the Martisor by hanging a red and white string at their the gate, window, cattle's horn and shed to protect against evil spirits and to invoke nature's regenerative power.
In eastern Romania ( Moldova and Bucovina), the red and white string was complemented with a small - gold or silver - coin. After wearing the coin for twelve days, the women would buy fresh cheese with it hopping that their skin would be healthy and beautiful the entire year.
Mărțișor traces its history more than 8,000 years ago. Some ethnologists believe that the Mărțișor celebration has Roman origins, others support the theory that it is an old Dacian tradition.
In ancient Rome, the New Year's was celebrated on the 1st of March.
March ('Martius') was named in the honor of the god Mars. Mars was not only the god of war but also the god of agriculture, which contributes to the rebirth of vegetation.
The Dacians also celebrated the New Year's on the first day of March. Ample spring celebrations were consecrated to this event.
In the old times, Mărțișor were made of small river pebbles, colored in white and red, stringed on a thread and worn around the neck. They were worn, to bring good luck and good weather, from March 1 until the first trees would bloom. When the first trees were flowering the Mărțișor were hanged on tree branches.
Even today, on March 1, Romanians buy silky red-white threads (șnur)tied into a bow to which a small trinket is attached and offer them to their (female) family members, friends and colleagues to show friendship, respect or admiration.
Mărţişor has its own legends. Some believe that the lucky charm is associated with the Sun. Once upon a time, the Sun descended on Earth disguised as a young, beautiful maiden and was kidnaped by a dragon and locked in a palace. That day, the birds stopped chirping, the children forgot how to laugh and play, the land froze, and the entire world succumbed to sorrow. Seeing the sadness in the world without the Sun, a young man journeyed to the dragon’s den to free the maiden. He defeated the beast and released the girl who raised to the skies and turned back into the blessed light of day. Spring arrived, and the first snowdrops showed their pretty little heads through the melting snow. But the young hero was badly injured and his blood stained the snow and the ice with bright red. He soon died, but the people of the land still celebrate his sacrifice wearing red-and-white threads with the small Mărţişor. In this story, red signifies the love, courage, and sacrifice of the young man, while white stands for snowdrops and fresh beginnings.
Another myth sees the Sun as a young man descending on Earth to dance the hora. Like in the previous legend, a dragon kidnaps him but locks him in a dark dungeon. A young hero journey for the length of three seasons – summer, fall, and winter – till he finds the dragon’s den and fights the beast. During the fight, the blood of the hero falls onto the snow, melts it, and metamorphosises into snowdrops, the messengers of spring. When Sun is free, spring comes, and the young man dies happily, seeing that his sacrifice was not in vain.
Nevertheless, Mărţişor is a metaphor of life and death. It is a symbol with valuable meanings and strong connections with the national identity of the Romanians. Children are looking forward to wearing it and offering it so as to preserve this legacy.
If you are a foreigner be curious about it, ask around, visit the Village Museum in Bucharest, where artists create beautiful and unique pieces of jewelleries that can be worn as Martisor on your clothing. Wear it for good luck and enjoy spring.
Check other sites too for even more information about this unique Romanian tradition.