For Romanians 1st of March has a powerful symbol, called “MĂRȚIȘOR”. In Romanian sounds like the younger brother of March. I was raised like it was a big thing, but I cannot remember the legend of this tradition. I guess is one of those things you grow up with, not questioning it too much. You only come to realize you don’t have a clue about it when someone who wasn’t aware of it (like a foreigner) asks about it. 1st of March in Romania is indeed a special day.
I have researched it, and long story short, nobody knows for sure. But there are nice legends, superstitions and some even claim it used to have magic powers. The stories are old, older than our language itself.
What do Romanians do for 1st of March or Mărțișor (1 Martie în Romania)
For as long as I can remember, this was a special day. Starting from kindergarten, boys would bring mărțișoare and give them to girls. Let me first define the symbol. This item, called mărțișor, is a renowned symbol of this tradition. It stands primarily for the beginning of spring.
Nowadays, most people don’t know even know the legends or where the tradition comes from, but they keep the tradition of giving this symbol of spring to women. This is a bit of a chore to men, especially to those who work in large environments. But I find it amazing how we still have it, and every year before the 1st of March, the most important squares in the city are full of mărțisoare. And plenty of people crowd to admire and to buy them.
What does the legend say about the 1st of March in Romania?
A long time ago, people would give the symbol of Mărțisor to children and young boys and girls, on the 1st of March, before sunrise. The string of this two-colour wool symbol represents the winter and summer contrast. Red and white. The string, which is what makes is an authentic mărțișor, had to be tied to the wrist or worn pinned on the clothing. It had to be worn until spring started to show signs of blooming. It had to be tied on a flourishing tree, for good luck. Some say this is a Dacians tradition. Read more about the ancestors of Romanians, the Dacians.
This is the most common story about Mărțișor. Other legends remind of an old lady, who had 12 thick sheepskin coats on, who made the two mărțisor strings while caring for the sheep.
Probably many legends have been lost since this tradition only exists in Romania and Bulgaria (they celebrate it a bit different). An 8000 years old tradition, was once celebrated as the God of Mars day, the one who cared for the crops and lands. There were always these two colours, red and white, on the string, which represented two opposed concepts, winter and summer, man and woman, darkness and light.
1st of March in Romania Today
Strolling on the sidewalks of the big boulevards in Bucharest, people were in the mărțișor fever, even though outside was a temperature of only -9 °C. A day before the first day of spring, courteous men, thoughtful moms, and careful wives were all buying this symbol of spring, to give it to the women they have in their lives.
How does the mărțișor look like? It was be anything, but usually, it is a small object with a small red and white string tied to it. Take a look.
What makes it such a beautiful tradition is the celebration of Spring. Women are celebrated as if they were a blooming flower, and that is why I admire this tradition the most. No matter the relationship, or the social status, everyone feels the joy and shares a good spirit. We all wish each other “La mulţi ani!” (Happy birthday or more accurate “to live long”).
Our good spirit always drives us to be happy and celebrate special days in our lives. We welcome everyone else to join us.
As today is 1st of March in Romania, I wish you all a wonderful spring, with lots of sunshine and smiles!