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A letter in Spring; Bulgarian Folklore

Sometime just before spring this year, I received a letter in a sealed envelope addressed to me from a lovely lady, a beautiful friend Eli, (my pet name for her) asking me not to open the envelope until the first of March. In my curiosity, I kept fiddling with the envelope trying to get cues of what may be contained in it. I gave up and decided to be patient. On 1st March, I opened it and found a handmade red and white bracelet made from wool and a letter in it.

From Miss Petrova, the one who cares for me

It was a letter written from Eli to me and it read::

Chestita Baba Marta, June (In Bulgaria: Честита Баба Марта , June)

(This is something little from Bulgaria)

On the first of March, Bulgarian people celebrate a traditional holiday called Baba Marta (or Grandma Marta in English) and it is related to welcoming the approaching spring. People all over the world meet spring with joy and new hopes but in Bulgaria, it is saved as an ancient tradition.

On that day, Bulgarians exchange so called “Martenitsi” (“Martenitsa”- singular, “Martenitsi”- plural) and tell each other, Chestita Baba Marta!” (Happy Grandma Marta).

This custom is essentially to wish great health, good luck and happiness to family and friends. The name “Martenitsa” is taken from the Bulgarian word for March, or as a legend tells, an angry old lady called Grandma Marta- Baba Marta in Bulgarian (“baba” means grandmother and Marta comes from the word “mart”, which means March in Bulgarian)

In Bulgarian folklore, Baba Marta is a grumpy old woman who changes her mood very rapidly and it reflects in the changeable March weather. When she is smiling the weather sunny and warm, but if she gets angry, the cold will stay for longer and it may even snow. By wearing the red and white colours of the Martenitsa, our predecessors asked Baba Marta for mercy. They hoped that it will make winter pass faster and bring spring.

The Martenitsa is made of twined red and white threads- woollen, silk, or cotton. The white is a symbol of strength, purity and happiness. The red is associated with health, blood, conception, and fertility.