Celebrating an Early Spring Arrival With Cool Romanian Traditions


Warm weather has finally arrived in Romania. The first spring flowers thrust their heads through the last layers of snow warning everyone about the signs of spring arrival. Even though spring is not official yet, Romanians like to celebrate the beginning of spring on March 1stMartisor is the name of March or “martie” in Romanian.

It is represented by red and white silky threads that are intertwined in a string that holds a small trinket. One end of the string has a red hanging tassel and a white tassel hangs at the other end. The colors red for woman and white for man symbolize their union as a perpetual cycle of life. The trinket comes in many shapes that represent love, good luck, friendship, appreciation, and respect.

 

Photos above: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

The Romanian folklore is very rich. Traditions come with a tale and are celebrated slightly different in each region of the country. One tale said that the seasons of Spring and Winter were portrayed as two women that fought to take over the Spring time. During the fight, lady Spring cut her finger and a few drops of her blood dripped on the snow where a snowdrop started to grow and announced the beginning of spring.

Another tale says that the Sun used to descend on Earth in the shape of a young man that wanted to participate in folk festivities. When he was captured by a dragon nature stopped in place. Another young man freed the Sun from the dragon and brought everything back to life. Because he was badly wounded in the battle, the young man’s blood was draining on the white snow where snowdrops started to grow. People started braiding a red and white string made with red and white tassels to celebrate his bravery and purity. The snowdrop represented arrival of spring.

The first 9 days of March are marked by the Romanian mythological figure called <Baba> Dochia or the <Old Lady> Dokia that is associated with the return of spring. Baba Dochia was imagined as an old widow. She had a son that married a girl she did not like. One cold day, she sent her daughter-in-law to the river to wash a spool of black sheep’s wool until it turned out white.

It is believed that Jesus was impressed by the girl’s eagerness to please Baba Dochia. He came down to Earth as a young man called Martisor. He gave her a red flower that made the wool white. When Baba Dochia found out about the flower she believed that winter was over and left home with the sheep. She took nine warm sheep coats that took off one by one because it was getting warm outside. When the weather became cold again she froze together with her sheep. It is said that you could still see them on the peak of a mountain where they turned to stone. These stones are called Babele (plural of Baba in Romanian) and are one of Romania’s natural wonders in the Bucegi Mountains. Also see Bucegi Mountains in So Far Apart and Yet So Much Alike [Carpathian Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina]).

 

(Photos above: Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons, by Gaspar Ros)

Women pick a day out of these nine beforehand. If it is a nice sunny day there will be a good and prosperous year waiting ahead. If the day turns out to be cold and bitter the year will be less than expected. Checking the forecast may help picking the right day but what is the beauty in that? Try not to cheat. Just enjoy the tradition.

When I grew up in the southern part of Romania, men were giving a Martisor to their sweetheart, mother, sister, or any female they considered important in their lives. Women also can give a Martisor to other females but not to males. However, there are regions where men receive a Martisor. It is a tradition that goes back to the Roman times that only Romanians celebrate.

martisor-2
Photo has been cropped to show center of image (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

During my middle school days, girls were having a competition on who received the highest number of Martisoare (plural of Martisor). We would pin them on the left side of the uniform or jackets and wore them for about a week or two. They can be worn for the entire month. Nowadays, it has become very commercial and a good way to make some extra money. People put a lot of work in creating new designs each year. You can see them in the streets as early as the beginning of February. I used to love making them when I was a kid.Along with a martisor, people would offer a bouquet of the first spring flowers such as snowdrops or crocus.

 

On March 8, Romanians celebrate the International Women’s Day that is a mixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. It is an occasion for every one to express their love for women by offering them cards, small gifts, and/or flowers. At this time, the flower shops are booming with freesias that are beautiful spring flowers with a very fragrant smell.

 

Photos above: http://www.pixabay.com

On March 9, people celebrate the Mucenici. They were forty soldiers that because of their Christian beliefs were left to freeze to death upon a frozen pond. Some say that they drowned and garlands of flowers in the shape of figure 8 rose to the surface of the pond. They were called the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. Their sacrifice became a traditional Christian holiday.  My mom like many other people did not really know the story but she was celebrating it with a typical dessert that had the same name: Mucenici. The dough is usually shaped in figure 8. My mom made them in circular shapes and boiled them in water with sugar, cinnamon and crushed nuts. It had the consistency of a soup. People are actually eating it in soup bowls with a tablespoon.

 

Photo above left: http://www.pixabay.com and right: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons) by Nicubunu

March is also a busy month for me personally. In my family, we celebrate two birthdays and an anniversary. About a week later the official spring sets in. Daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, and flower trees start filling the parks. That is when you can tell for sure that spring has arrived.

 

Featured Image: http://www.pexels.com

Photos above: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

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