March 1st brings the Spring: with warmth, the colourful and fragrant flowers, the chirping birds and with lots of happiness. Martisorul (pronounced something like Martzishor, and meaning 'little March' or 'dear March') is a pre-Christian custom - linked to the agricultural practices and beliefs (the 3 countries have been predominantly agricultural for almost all their history; industrializing them is a 'modern' idea, brought by socialism and communism). This is an incredible old custom: on the Romanian territory archaeologists have found Martisoare over 8,000 years old (yes, you read correctly: 8 thousand years).
There are many legends around this custom - you can read about one of them in a previous article here.
This is an incredible old custom: on the Romanian territory archaeologists have found Martisoare over 8,000 years old (yes, you read correctly: 8 thousand years). The little talismans come in many forms - usually as flowers, animals, or symbols of luck (the 4 leaf clover, chimney sweepers, or horseshoes) - but they all have one thing in common: a red and a white thread, twisted together in one balanced thread. The 2 colours are a symbol of death (red) and new life (white), winter / spring, darkness / light: the perfect balance and continuous cycle of nature.
The little talisman is offered to the loved ones: especially children and women (there are regions where young men will be offered a Martzishor as well) and it is worn for 2 weeks (sometimes more). There are as many traditions as regions: in some places the Martzishor was a coin strung on the red & white thread; the girls would wear it for 12 days, then the thread was set on a branch, and with the coin they would buy themselves a piece of cheese, so their face will be white and beautiful for the whole year. In other regions - after the 12 days, the Martzishor was set in the gates, windows, wells, even the animals' horns: to repel the bad spirits and to invoke life and its power.
No matter the region - this is a beautiful custom, one I am trying (hard) to keep. Every year I make Martzishoare with William - to share at school. The children are happy to hear about other traditions, and they are enchanted with the little charms.
The 'lot' from last year can be seen here: Martzishor 2012
This year I almost forgot to take a picture of the charms we made... but here you are:
|William's set of Martzishor for this year|
|The boy's version: a dragonfly|
|The girl's version: a butterfly|
What special traditions or customs do you observe in your family?