1 march – Martenitsa

Many, many years ago, a khan (chief/ruler) left his home and set out in search of fertile land for his people. He crossed many mountains and rivers, until he finally stopped in the lands of the Slavs, who welcomed him warmly with smile. Slavs in white clothes brought him drinks, and the tables were full of dishes – the fruits of this blessed land. But the khan was sad because he grieved for his relatives – for his mother and sister. He sat near the great river and tears streamed down from his face. He raised his head and prayed to the gods and sun. Then a miracle happened. A swallow landed on his shoulder. The khan told him about his pain. The swallow flew to the lands where the khan came from. It found his sister and told her that the khan had a new kingdom that he misses her and sends a lot of health. The girl was happy and decided to send a message to her brother. She made a bouquet of green branches, tied knots on white woolen thread and sent with the swallow to greet her brother. The bird flew like lightning and landed on the khan’s shoulder. But after a long journey its wing rubbed and got injured. Scarlet blood colored the woolen thread. The khan happily took the bouquet, read the sister’s greeting on the knots and adorned his chest with the bouquet. The Martenitsa shone. Then the khan ordered his people: “Everyone should tie a bunch of white and red thread to get blessed.” This happened on March 1 and remains to this day.

Nowadays, on the morning of March 1, a fire with a lot of smoke is lit on the yard of every house. Then everyone jumps up to three times the fire, facing the rising sun, to purify the soul from evil forces and protect themselves from disease.

The housewife takes out red clothes, which she throws on the branches of the trees in front of the house. Then she adorns the children and the animals with the martenitsa which is made of woolen and cotton yarn in white and red colors.

They are tied in the right hand of the children, on the right braid of the maiden, on the horns of the lambs and on the young saplings.

At this time, martenitsas are the most common to be worn in the form of a bracelet or adorned to any clothes. Bulgarians believe that wearing martenitsa will protect you from evil forces and will bring you longevity. This is also done for health, luck and success in the coming year. The old Bulgarians also believed that there was an evil force in nature which wakes up in the spring and the martenitsa has a magical power to protect people from it.

They are worn until the first appearance of storks, swallows and cuckoos. Then the martenitsas are hidden under the stone or tied to a fruit tree.

Source: The holidays of the Bulgarians with legends and traditions – Nikolay Nikov
Almanah – traditions and holidays of the Bulgarians