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 🙂
As 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!