Today, we are welcoming Spring with Martisor Day, a traditional celebration of spring, love, and peace. Mărțișor is a festival held yearly on March 1st in Eastern European countries like Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria (see Martenitsa), Albania, and Italy. The word Mărțișor is the diminutive of marț ~ the old folk name for March (martie, in modern Romanian), and thus literally means “Little March.”
Not long ago, in the countryside, people used to celebrate Martisor Day by hanging red and white strings at their gates, windows, cattle’s horns, and sheds to protect against the evil spirit and to invoke nature’s regenerative power. In Eastern Romania, Moldova and Bucovina, the red and white strings were complemented with a small gold or silver coin. (Silver coin hung from the thread was associated with the Sun, and the white color of silver symbolized power and strength. The round form of the coin also was reminiscent of the Sun, while silver was associated with the Moon. Thus, Mărțișor also symbolized fire, light, and the Sun.) After wearing the coin, as a sacred amulet for twelve days, women would then buy fresh cheese with it, hoping that their skin would be healthy and beautiful the entire year.
It is believed that a person wearing the red and white string would enjoy a prosperous and healthy year.
Mărțișor ~Marț, mărțiguș, Mărţişoare are all names for the red and white string with hanging tassel customarily given on the 1st day of March. Giving this talisman to people is an old custom, and it is believed that the wearer will be strong and healthy for the year to come. It is also a symbol of the coming Spring, friendship, love, appreciation, and respect. Usually, both women and men wear it pinned to their clothes, close to the heart, until the last day of March, when they tie it to a fruit-tree twig.
To learn more about the holiday and Eastern Europe, we explored our Eastern-European Continent 📦Box, which we gathered during our trips to Europe, as well as with the help of my parents.
Glazed art crafts and pottery is a famous handicraft in Moldova
Matryoshka doll ~ матрёшка also known as a Russian nesting doll or Russian doll, is a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. The name “matryoshka” (матрёшка), literally “little matron”, is a diminutive form of Russian female first name “Matryona” (Матрёна) or “Matriosha”. A set of matryoshkas consists of a wooden figure which separates, top from bottom, to reveal a smaller figure of the same sort inside, which has, in turn, another figure inside of it, and so on. Although Matryoshka doll is traditionally associated with Russian culture, it is very widespread among Eastern European Countries.
Tiniest vs biggest Matryoshka doll
The craftsmanship is simply amazing, especially on the smallest Matryoshka.
Children also enjoyed the miniature Teddy Bear tea set from Germany.
Children insisted that I fill the tea kettle with green tea for their tea party.
Palekh wooden jewelry box (middle)
Palekh miniature (Палехская миниатюра) is a Russian folk handicraft of a miniature painting done with tempera paints on varnished articles made of paper-mâché.
Palekh wooden bracelet (front)
Moldovan people are extremely hospitable, offering food and home-made wine to every guest.
Partially glazed clay (glina) bell
Traditional Moldovan man
Wooden Russian khokhloma painted spoon
Khokhloma (хохлома or хохломская роспись) is the name of a Russian wood painting handicraft style and national ornament, known for its vivid flower patterns (red and gold colors over a black background) and the effect it has when applied to wooden tableware or furniture, making it look heavier and metal- like.
Dymkovo toys, also known as the Vyatka toys or Kirov toys (Дымковская игрушка, вятская игрушка, кировская игрушка) are molded painted clay figures of people and animals. It is one of the old Russian folk art handicrafts (dating more than 4000 years back), which still exists in a village of Dymkovo (near Kirov, former Vyatka). Traditionally, Dymkovo toys are made by women.
Traditional Russian Clown Petrushka (Петрушка)
Continent boxes are the most favorite activity of my children! Native traditional objects can “tell” a story better than words: about a far-far-away land and its people. My children are simply fascinated with learning about other cultures, different traditions, holidays. So a Continent box📦 is a wonderful hands-on fun way to expose your child to the diversity of our world, indirectly teaching geography and culture. There is really no better way to learn!
For more on Europe Continental box, read here International Women’s Day 💐 (IWD) – How We Celebrate with Western-European Continent 📦 Box.
For an introductory post on Montessori 🌎Continental📦Boxes, read here a post about Montessori Cultural & Science Lesson: Continent Boxes, including our 🇨🇳China📦Box.
More History of Mărțișor:
According to archaeological research, the Mărțișor traces its history more than 8,000 years ago. Some ethnologists believe that the Mărțișor celebration has Roman origins, others support the theory that it is an old Dacian tradition.
In ancient Rome, the New Year’s was celebrated on the 1st of March. March (‘Martius’) was named in the honor of the god Mars, who was not only the God of War but also the God of agriculture, which contributes to the rebirth of vegetation. Therefore, the red and white colors of Mărțișor may be explained as colors of war and peace. The Dacians also celebrated the New Year’s on the first day of March. Ample spring celebrations were consecrated to this event. In the old times, Mărțișor were made of small river pebbles, colored in white and red, stringed on a thread and worn around the neck. They were worn, to bring good luck and good weather, from March 1 until the first trees would bloom. When the first trees were flowering the Mărțișor were hanged on tree branches. Nowadays, on March 1, Romanians buy silky red-white threads (șnur) tied into a bow to which a small trinket is attached and offer them to their (female) family members, friends and colleagues to show friendship, respect or admiration.
Initially, the “Mărțișor” string was called the Year’s Rope (funia anului, in Romanian), made by black and white wool threads, representing the 365 days of the year. The Year’s Rope was the link between summer and winter, black and white representing the opposition and the unity of opposites: light and dark, warm and cold, life and death. White symbolizes purity: the sum of all colors and light; while black symbolizes origins, distinction, fecundation, and fertility – being a color of the fertile soil. White is the sky – the Father; while black is the mother of all – the Earth.
In ancient Roman tradition, March was a perfect time to embark on military campaigns, so the red string of Mărțișor symbolizes vitality, while white- victory. Red is the color of fire, blood, and a symbol of life, associated with the passion of women. Meanwhile, white is the color of snow, clouds, and the wisdom of men. In this interpretation, the thread of a Mărțișor represents the union of the feminine and the masculine principles, the vital forces which give birth to the eternal cycle of nature.
Red and white are also complementary colors present in many key traditions of Daco-Romanian folklore, where seasons are attributed symbolic colors: spring is red, summer is green or yellow, autumn is black, and winter is white. This is why one can say that the Mărțișor thread, knitted in white and red, is a symbol of passing, from the cold white winter to the lively spring, associated with fire and life.
Happy 🔴 ⚪️Martisor Day!