Baba Marta: Bulgarian Springtime Ritual

Contextual Data: A friend and I were sitting together one day after class and exchanging different bits of folklore we had encountered in our childhood. She mentioned to me that she was Bulgarian and there was one particular tradition that her family continued to participate in, which had just passed the previous month. The following is an exact transcript of her description.

Informant: “Okay, so Baba Marta. It’s a holiday for Spring in Bulgaria, um, and the name—it literally translates as, um, Grandmother March, since March is like the month of Spring, and we start celebrating it on March 1st. And what you do is, um, you put this little pin on you. Um…Or a bracelet. And it has to be with red and white threads because those are, I guess, Bulgarian symbols of Spring. And they kind of symbolize, you know, rebirth and regrowth and newness. And you have to wear that pin or that bracelet. And it can come in, like, many different forms. Um, especially nowadays—they get really creative with the designs and they have like little dolls, and etcetera. But you wear it for the entire month of March. Um, and then you can take it off either when you see a flowering tree, or—like you take it off and you pin it on the tree—or just like at the end of March. And then again, you find some nice blossoming tree or flower and you just kind of pin it on there. And we get ours from our relatives and they just kind of like mail it to us—because you obviously can’t find any here—which is nice. And then you get to… Just kind of wear it and, like, still be connected to the culture and like people ask you about it and they’re like, ‘Oh, what’s this?’ And you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s for Spring.’ Um, which is cool. And… It’s a nice little decoration or bracelet I guess.”

– End Transcript – 

This ritual very much seems to be a part of a life-cycle celebration. My informant explained that the beginning of March marks the beginning of Spring in the Bulgarian calendar, and as can be seen in many different cultures, this time of the year symbolizes “rebirth and regrowth.” That people perform this ritual could therefore be a way of sort of earning luck or signifying a rejuvenation as they move forward. It could even just be away of acknowledging the importance of this “rebirth” in the earth cycle — particularly if the colors stand as “Bulgarian symbols for the Spring.” My informant also mentioned that now that she lives in America, it is kind of a way of allowing her to still be part of the Bulgarian culture and to connect to her family back in Bulgaria (particularly as her grandparents are the one to mail her the bracelets). Whenever she sees those bracelets hung on trees during this time of year, she does get a little thrill of excitement from it — a kind of “oh, that’s nice.”