Mărțișor (pronunciation: [mərtsiʃor]) is the diminutive of marț, the old folk name for March (now known as Martie), so the word can be translated by something similar to “little March” or “dear March” and it signifies the rebirth of nature.
The origins of the tradition are unknown, but it is still celebrated in Romania and Moldova; also Bulgarians have an almost identical tradition called “Martenitsa”.
There are many theories surrounding this little token.
It’s said that initially these little symbols were made with black and white threads to signify the opposing forces of the world: good and evil, life and death, darkness and light. This tradition persists in some regions, though it has largely been replaced with the new colors – red and white, which originally represented ‘war and peace’ (as Mars was the god of war, but also of agriculture that leads to nature rebirth).
Nowadays, Mărţişor is a jewel or a small decoration like a flower, an animal or a heart, tied to a red and white string (meaning friendship or love) and it is usually offered by men to women. They wear it attached to their clothes (close to the heart) for the first few days of the month or until they see the first blossomed tree and it is meant to make their souls one with spring. In some regions women wear them until the last day of March, when they tie it to the branches of a fruit-tree.
I usually wear only a red and white string around my wrist and for me it simply means “hope”.
But as a kid I loved to wear on my clothes a different Mărţişor every day. I carefully searched for the perfect ones to give to my mother, my little sister and my best friend and couldn’t wait to see the ones from them.
Also, boys used to come to school and give to each girl (or to some of them) a Mărţişor and, in a way, I guess that you could measure the popularity of the girls by the number of the tokens received that day.
Even though traditions seem to slip slowly through the layers of time, the celebration of the “Mărţişor” is quite optimistic, jovial and it is still believed that the one who wears the red and white string will be strong and healthy the entire year.
I wish you all a lovely spring and… don’t forget to wear your “Mărţişor”!