Martenitsa – the spring celebration in Bulgaria

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My first (and so far) the only trip to Bulgaria happened last year, in the middle of March. One of the first things I’ve noticed, already in the airport, was that so many people, both man and woman, had brooch or bracelets made of red and white strings. I knew it can’t be just a coincidence and as soon as I reached my hostel (and saw so many more red and white strings) I decided to investigate the topic a little bit more. The girl at the reception desk had 50 or so strings on her wrist and it intrigued me so much!


On 1st March people in Bulgaria give each other these red and white strings known as Martenitsa. It’s a gift (never buy one for yourself!) to the person you love and care about and it symbolizes the wishes of good health in the upcomming spring and the whole year. White stands for the purity while red is for life and passion. But there’s one more explanation: martenitsa is also the herald of the spring that waits just around the corner and by wearing it people ask Baba Marta (Grandma March, an old, grumpy lady in Bulgarian tradition) for mercy so the winter can go away quickly and the new circle of life can begin.

You should wear your martenitsa until the last day of March or until you see a stroke – a symbol of spring. What happens next depends on the region of Bulgaria. In some parts martenitsas are tied into the fruit tree to give it health that will eventually result in tastry fruits. In other parts people hide these small strings under the stone in belief that the creature living under that stone will determine the person’s health and luck in the next year. If the creature is larva or worm the person has nothing to worry about, the same goes with ant but in that case a lot of hard work has to be done to achieve the success. The trouble comes when it was a spider living under that stone…


With days passing by I saw martenitsa on every step in Bulgaria. Almost every single person wore them (even to the official uniforms), trees were covered in colorful strings, even on the Ministry Council building in Sofia the huge martenitsa was hanged. The whole atmosphere in the country was joyful and happy, with the spring comming and crowds out in the city enjoying the sunny weather. That was the first moment last year I felt the warm days are almost here and it made me truly happy too.


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I really like this tradition so when I returned from Bulgaria almost every of my friends got their martenitsa with my best wishes. I know I should have taken it off by the end of March but twelve months later I still have four martenitsa I got tied to me left wrist. Bulgaria might not be on the top of my fave places, it might not be the most beautiful country ever but I really enjoyed these couple of days there and martenitsa keeps reminding me about that.

Have you ever experienced such an interesting traditions? Where? What was that?

If you think of visiting Bulgaria or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!


love, kami 2

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  • Reply
    Wendy Watson
    21/08/2017 at 11:38

    Kami, I live in Bulgaria and the red & white bracelets are given for other reasons too, usually they are just red with a small symbol on them. I was given one when I became godmother to a child here and wore it for nearly 3 years until it snapped.

    • Reply
      05/10/2017 at 07:41

      Thank you for telling me Wendy! I honestly didn’t know, I only heard about March Martenitsa and when I visited Bulgaria in different months I haven’t seen the bracelets at all. But it’s good to know it has a different meaning too! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Vasilena Todorova
      25/12/2017 at 01:10

      Hi Wendy,

      What you received is a charm bracelet. Not to be confused with martenitsa. They are usually to keep “bad eyes away from you”. In other words, if someone is jealous of your success or grandchild in your case, the red string will “kill the bad spell”. It is to be worn until it snaps, and there are many such bracelets. Some are plain red thread while others may have charms of silver and stones. I have 3 to celebrate different things in my life, some have been on for more than 5 years. Can’t post a pic here but you get the point. The Greeks also have the same tradition, and the Turks usually have a charm of a glass eye on them. Basically have the same idea :)
      Greetings from Bulgaria!

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