Mărțișor – Spring Traditions in Romania

Yes, the first official day of spring, is finally on its way, and in Romania we celebrate the beginning of the new season, in a special way, so I’ve decided to share a few thoughts on the local customs, as I’m pretty sure not everyone heard of them.

 Mărțișor is what we call the Romanian holiday (taking place on March 1st), symbolizing the first day of Spring; the diminutive of marț (Martie for March in Romanian), which means little March.

The custom is believed to have Daco-Thracian origins, dating back 8,000 years! As during the Roman Empire times New Year’s Eve was celebrated on March 1, this day symbolized a new beginning. March (‘Martius’) was named in honor of the god Mars, the god of war but also agriculture, suggesting the rebirth of nature, huge celebrations taking place to mark the new start of the year.

Mărțișor is also the name of a talisman, tied to a red and white string, offered by men to women, on the 1st day of Spring. The old custom of giving is still alive, and it is believed that the one who wears the string and token will be strong and healthy in the year to come. Women wear it pinned to their clothes, until the last day of March, when they tie the string to the branches of a tree, moment when you have to make a wish, and if the tree blossoms, your wish will come true. Now, you can cheat a little bit by picking a fruit-tree, as they are well known for their beautiful spring blossoms, but ….shhht! 😉

The string used to be originally called the Year’s Rope, as a link between winter and spring. The colors are a reminder of the light and darkness, warmth and coldness, life and death, present during the changing season. The Dacians (Romanians’ ancestors) believed these amulets brought fertility, beauty and even prevented sunburns. According to them, mărțișor’s a symbol of war, blood but and also women’s passion.

In the past, the tokens were homemade and the string was created from black and white wool, which later was changed for the very well known red and white. Nowadays, as every other holiday, mărțișor was also turned in a commercial paradise for shop owners, who sell cheap looking mass-production tokens. However, local workshops try to keep the tradition, by selling handmade painted ones, made out of wood or clay. That’s what I call keeping tradition alive 🙂

artstudiomartisorcrAs far as I’m concerned, no gift is better than one you make with your own hands, and you give from your heart. No one knows better than you do, the recipient of the gift, so who better to design it, if not yourself?

Considering this, can you think of a better way to celebrate 1st of March, other than going to a creative workshop and design your own talismans? This year I’ve decided to do just that, and play with some clay and colors. And I must say, it was such a fun experience, which I’m looking forward to experience again, soon!

I’m sure there are better looking talismans out there, but none are made with so much love like mine are 🙂 Besides, buying locally, helps the artists and workshops make a living, which brings the handmade gifts to the number 1 – to buy gift, in my book.

Spring is probably my favorite season of the year. I love the return to life of nature, the gentle sun rays, the spring flowers, the not too cold – not too warm days, and the entire atmosphere overall.

I hope you enjoyed the virtual trip through 8,000 years of history and the Romanian traditions for 1st of March. I wish you all a lovely spring and best wishes for the new season to come!

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19 thoughts on “Mărțișor – Spring Traditions in Romania

  1. Oh Lucy, what a beautiful post! You are right, I had never heard of your country’s traditions and I love the idea of the string and gift which is given, with love, then worn and eventually tied in trees!
    Like you, I love to celebrate the arrival of Spring and I wonder if you would mind if I, here in England took on your tradition too? If so, I am going to see what I can make and give on March 1st and ask my friends to keep and wear the string. The belief that this token is a charm which could bring a wish for health and happiness for the coming year is just lovely.
    I loved seeing your smiley face as you made your beautiful gifts!
    Now…..I have to think what I shall make!

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    • Wow, Karen, thank you so much for you beautiful words! ❤ I would feel honored if you decide to celebrate 1st of March with your friends and family. If I can help you with anything, let me know. In case you are looking for talisman ideas, Google 'martisor'. You will get a lot of suggestions. The most popular ones are: spring flowers(especially snowdrops), horseshoes, chimney sweepers, clovers. Lots of hugs x

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      • I wondered what the little toys were with black hats and sacks! So sweet! As it is on Sunday, I might go with Snowdrops. I have lots of pots of them as I have been selling them at my gate. I also have some butchers string which is coloured red and white. I will photograph what I do and post it on my blog. Oh…what a lovely project! x

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      • Awww that sounds lovely. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to see how they will look like. Good luck! I hope your loved ones will like them! Looking forward to seeing the pictures!!! x

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    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I also love to create things myself. It’s so rewarding to have something made by my own hands. Thanks for the compliment on my hair *blush*. Actually, I don’t do much to care for it, except trying to use as little chemicals as possible. Also, during winter, I sometimes use a homemade hair mask with honey and olive oil, as my hair gets really dry (curly hair problems I guess 🙂 ). Hope it helps 🙂 Have a lovely weekend! Hugs x

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  2. Your talismans are so beautiful Lucy 🙂 I’ve really enjoyed reading about the Romanian spring traditions it’s so interesting 🙂 Here it’s officially the first day of Autumn which I love because it means the really hot weather of January/February is behind us – I just love the extra crispness in the air at night and we can start to look forward to lighting our first fire (not for a while yet but by May and certainly June!). Of course the beginning of spring is lovely too and I thought the creative craft workshop a great idea! Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

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    • Thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comment! I’m happy to know you enjoyed the article. The story behind the holiday dates back in history all the way to the Roman Empire times, and this is why I find it so fascinating. Wow….autumn? I’m just not ready for that again haha. I’m sure I’ll miss hating the cold weather, but I can’t wait for some sunshine and green grass. I also miss the flowers 🙂 Looking forward to tulips! I sooo love them ❤ Have a lovely weekend! Hugs

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      • You’re very welcome Lucy 🙂 I love tulips too they are simply beautiful! I like autumn here because it signifies the end of the really hot weather but we had friends over here today and they were not happy that summer is officially over so everyone is different! I’m hoping it won’t be a really cold spring because I’ll be in the UK in just under 4 weeks time and I always feel so cold coming off the Australian summer into colder climes! Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend too 🙂

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    • Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. You are right. The American traditions are relatively new compared to some in Europe. Still, it all starts from somewhere. I guess it’s every citizen’s job to keep them alive and take pleasure in the joy that they bring 🙂

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  3. I miss our “Martisor”. I miss looking at all the beautiful designs, I miss offering and being given a “Martisor”. I miss celebrating spring with family and friends. I loved your post on our spring traditions! Have a wonderful spring! Mihaela

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    • Thank you, dear Mihaela! Actually I got my friends here into celebrating. So I wish them happy first of march and we use flowers instead of Martisor 🙂 I think we can continue any tradition we enjoy, even if we’re away from Romania. Have a lovely spring, and all the best!

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