First of March is Martenitsa day in Bulgaria. This is the celebration of spring and starts with people buying a red- and white striped ribbon made of yarn that they give to their loved ones, who put it around their wrist. The meaning of the red color is life and health, like the red cheeks, and the meaning of the white color is purity. The idea is that the Martenitsa will bring health to the bearer of the wrist band.

There is also a folklore telling the story of a dove that was sent with a white stripe tied to it’s foot as a message during the war. On the way to deliver the message the white stripe got blood on it and that’ this is the origin of the colors. But there are many different stories like this and nobody knows for sure how it all started.

During march the people wearing the wrist are looking out for a stork, a swallow or a tree with it’s first bud. When they see this they tie their wrist band on that tree (or the tree closest to them). After some time the trees here are filled with red- and white striped ribbons. They can also tie a blue object to the ribbon in the tree to protect against bad spells.

The last years this tradition has become more and more commercialized which helps the tradition stay alive. In some surrounding countries similar traditions used to exist but are now a memory of the past or stories from the grandparents.

These pictures are from two years ago as I just two days ago moved to Cyprus from Bulgaria and are not there to see this beautiful tradition this year.

A Martenitsa ribbon tied on a tree branch

Martenitsa day
A tree full of flowers and Martenitsa ribbons

Martenitsa seller
Martenitsa street seller (from this year)

Martenitsa sale stand
There are as many different types of martenitsa as there are sellers

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