Penpalling & Letters

Friday, 10 September 2010

"Martenitzi" - Do you know which country this tradition belongs to?

In a new trip around the globe we find ourselves in southeastern Europe, in a land bathed by the salty waters of an inland sea, the Black Sea, and the fresh waters of the second longest river in Europe, the Danube. Have you already guessed where we are?

The Team is accompanying us to Bulgaria to share with all the Penpalling & Letters readers a typical and lovely tradition of their country called "Martenitzi", as well as their experience with penpalling.

Hello Team and welcome to Penpalling & Letters! Could you tell us from which place in Bulgaria do you come from?

I come from Zlatograd (when translated, "zlato" means gold and "grad" means city) which is located near the Bulgarian-Greek border. Don't let the name's translation of the city and its location in the Rhodopian Mountains fool you into thinking that there are gold mines around! :) The name comes from the golden color that the tobacco leaves get when they are dry. The region has been a big producer of tobacco in the early to late 1980s-1990s.

How did you discover penpalling?

I have been into penpalling for the better part of the last eighteen years. I started when I was six and I was studying English as a foreign language. Back then, the "Mickey Mouse magazine" was posting ads from people from all around Europe who wished to have penpals and well, I started penpalling in an attempt to keep my language skills in check! :) I am still swapping Friendship Books and developing a penpal site:

Maybe you have seen them on the Internet or run into people wearing the white and red bracelets or badges called martenitzi. But do you know the tradition behind it? Well, the martenitzi are a typical Bulgarian tradition and no other nation celebrates the month of March with them. On the first of March and the first few days after, Bulgarians give to one another white and red tassels or small bracelets or badges called "Martenitsa" or "Martenichka" (the plural form of which is "Martenitza" or "Martenitsa" if you prefer to spell it in English with an s... the "tz" sound is a letter in the Bulgarian alphabet. Actually the Bulgarian alphabet itself is the prototype of all Slavianic alphabets, as the languages share a lot of similarities).
The roots of this holiday are very deep, as it is connected with many symbols, legends and myths, than the general beliefs for health and luck. Most of them date back to pagan times (or as early as the first establishment of the Bulgarian nation/country which was way back in time – in 681 AD).
The red colour is a symbol of the feminine beginning, health, conception and birth, and the white, on the other hand, is the male beginning, strength and light. This invariable combination between the man and woman, which actually rules the world, is notified in the Bulgarian folklore at the beginning of the spring season, the new beginning, source of the good. That is why white and red are being weaved in the martenitza, the way the man and woman are entwined, to create something new and good.
The tradition goes on that whenever you see a stork or if April 1st comes before that, you should take off your martenitza and place it under a stone or at a fruit tree. So that the year will be fruitful and successful. We greet each other and say Happy baba Marta ("baba" means grandma, "Marta" is a nickname for March). So Chestita baba Marta, everyone!

If you are interested in reading more interesting stories have a look at: Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background

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