Mărțișorul is a Romanian holiday that takes place on the first of March and celebrates the spring. The word mărțișor is the diminutive of Martie (March) and stands for a red and white string with a hanging adornment. At the beginnings, the talisman used to be a coin that represented the Sun. Mărțișor was also made of small river pebbles, coloured in red and white and stringed on a thread. The tradition differs from one region to the other, but it is normally the boys who give the mărțișor to the girls and in the leap years, the roles change and the girls give them away. The mărțișor symbolizes the coming spring and brings health and good luck. The Romanians wear them pinned to their clothes until the last day of March.
It is said that the mărțișor has either Roman or Daco-Thracian origins. There are many legends around this subject. According to one of them, the Sun descended on earth, took the image of a young man and came down in a village to attend a traditional folklore dance, hora. He was followed and kidnapped by an evil dragon who imprisoned him. The nature died, the birds did not sing anymore, the kids were not laughing, but nobody had the courage to do something.
But then, a young brave man decided to face the dragon and release the Sun. His journey lasted three seasons, summer, autumn and winter, and he finally arrived at the dragon’s castle. After heavy fights, the young man, weak and badly injured, saved the Sun and gave life to the nature. He died in front of the castle and his hot blood dropped on the snow. While the snow was melting, the first snowdrop made its way through its layers. Since then, the people knit a white and a red string together. Red reminds of the young man’s blood and represents the love and sacrifice, while white reminds of the first snowdrop and symbolizes the purity and the new beginnings.
The other legend talks about Baba Dochia (Old Dokia – I mentioned her also here), the daughter of the Dacian emperor, Decebal. Dochia was renowned for her beauty and wisdom and all the young men were trying to seduce her. Only after many visits, Dochia liked a young man and her father agreed with their wedding. Just before the wedding, Decebal fought against Traian, the Roman emperor, whose armies invaded Dacia. Decebal lost the battle. Upon seeing Dochia, Traian fell in love with Dochia and wanted to take her away. With a broken heart and not being able to fight against Traian, Dochia ran into the mountains. She dressed herself in nine sheep skins and was driving the sheep back up to the mountains. At the beginning of March, the weather started to change, so Dochia threw away the sheep skins one by one. After she had thrown away the last one, the snow started to fall.
On the top of the mountain, Traian found Dochia who was almost frozen. She called the supreme god, Zamolxe, and asked him to fulfill her one last wish and then, to transform her into a stone for life. She took a white and a red string from her ie (traditional Romanian blouse), knitted them together and sent them to the village. The strings brought the spring back and Dochia was transformed into a stone. She can still be seen up in the mountains as a stone called Babele.
Since that time, the Romanians have been wearing this famous mărțișor and the women have been choosing a babă (Old lady), a day between March 1 and 9 that will show them how their year is going to be. If the weather is nice, they will have a successful year. If the weather is dreary, they will have a difficult year. A rainy day means a rich year.
I wish you all a Happy Spring and many lucky mărțișoare!