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Every March 1 in Bulgaria, Baba Marta Day is celebrated (meaning â€œGrandmother Marchâ€) to welcome the upcoming spring.
On this day, martenitsi are exchanged or worn. They are always in the form of red and white yarn tassels, red and white yarn male and female dolls known as Pizho and Penda, or red and white yarn bracelets. These trinkets are worn until the first sighting of spring (a stork, which is known as a welcome sign of spring or a budding flower or tree). Â Once there is a sign that spring is on its way, the martenitsi are tied to trees.
Since the weather in March is quite a roller coaster of temperatures in Bulgaria (as in parts of the US), Baba Marta is seen as a moody, temperamental old lady. Warm weather means that Baba Marta is happy; when she is angry, the winter frost returns. Most of the customs connected to Baba Marta aim to make her happy to expedite the arrival of spring!
As with all folklore, there are many versions of how this holiday began. One version is that that on March 1, Baba Marta does her pre-spring cleaning and shakes her mattress for the last time before the next winter and then all the feathers from her mattress float down to Earth as the last snow of the winter.
The tradition of giving martenitsi is thought to have been inspired by Bulgaria’s first Khan Asparuh, who sent a white string to his wife to tell her he survived a battle. Currently, the traditional include buying coffee for your friends and colleagues, and then following up on the weekend after Baba Marta with Asian takeaway lunch for your friends and colleagues.
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