Granny March, or as we call her Baba Marta, will be going round the streets and parks of Veliko Tarnovo, giving away her favourite red and white symbols of health and the coming spring.
Who is Baba Marta?
March 1st is probably the most anticipated and joyous holiday, marking the coming of spring! Today is known as Baba Marta Day. Granny March is a mythical figure from the Bulgarian folklore, who is believed to put an end to the reign of Zlata Zima (the Evil Winter/January) and Maluk Sechko (a name given to the month of February, which is believed to be the coldest winter month). Bulgarians mark this day by exchanging martenitsi.
A martenitsa (plural martenitsi) is a small piece of adornment, made of white and red yarn and worn until the person sees a budding/blossomed tree, a stork or a sparrow. When you see those, you either tie your martenista to a/that blossomed tree or hide it under a rock.
They say if you see the stork while in the air, you’ll have a busy productive year; and if you see the stork while on the ground, you’re going to be lazy this year.
The symbolism behind red and white
Red symbolizes life, health and passion, while the white colour symbolizes purity. Some suggest that those colours symbolize the cycle of life and death, the balance between good and evil.
The legend of Pizhu and Penda
Pizho and Penda are a couple that lived in Bulgaria a long time ago. Pizho was a handsome, smart and humble young man who was famous for his hard work and helpful sweet personality. Everybody in the village knew him. He was a very hard-working and never kept in one place – he alwaysr helped someone and toured the village. That’s why his cheeks were always red. Pizho fell in love with the beautiful Penda at first sight.
Penda was the most beautiful girl in the whole district. She had an honest and humble soul, she was a good and very honest girl. Her hair was black and her skin was the fairest anyone has ever seen. Pizho was fascinated by her beauty and asked for her hand. Penda had also chosen Pizho as his companion.
So they married and threw a big wedding, inviting several villages. People who loved the couple decided to immortalize them in two martenitsa pieces – the red man and the white bride.
Today Pizho & Penda watch us every year from the martenitsi, to remind us that the power of love ennobles human beings and makes them immortal.