March 1st begins the first month of spring. With it comes celebrations, warmer days, and the beginning of working in the fields. Mărțișor is a celebration of sorts that takes place in Romania and Moldova (and anywhere else where Romanians and Moldovans live) that occurs on March 1st, celebrating the beginning of spring. The name itself is the diminutive form of Mărț (the old folk name for March), and thus translates at “Little March.”
During the many festivities and events that occur (such as programs at the schools and kindergartens), friends and family members give each other a mărțișor (also called marț and mărțiguș). The pictures seen here are examples of 2 I have received (from my amazing host family).
The red and white mărțișor is to be placed close to the heart and can be worn the whole month of March. Afterwards, traditionally, it would be tied to a fruit twig tree. The reason you give someone a mărțișor is to show respect, appreciation, and friendship. It is also a way of wishing the wearer to be strong and healthy for the year to come.
Legends of Mărțișor
There are many stories and myths into why the colors are red and white. I’ll share two of the stories. One Romanian legend involves Winter Witch and beautiful Lady Spring. Winter Witch and Lady Spring got into a fight as the Winter Witch did not want to give up its place. During the battle, Lady Spring cut her finger. A few drops of blood fell into the snow, which caused it to melt. From those spots grew snowdrops (a sign of winter’s end), and in such a way, the spring won over the winter.
Another tale involves the sun and a dragon. It was said, at one time, the sun would take human form and descend to earth to dance among the people. Now a dragon heard about this and followed the sun on earth. The dragon captured the sun and confined him to the dungeon in his castle. Birds stopped singing and children could not laugh anymore, yet no one dared challenge the dragon.
Finally, a brave young man set out to find the dungeon and free the sun. Many people joined in and gave him strength and courage to challenge the dragon. His journey took three seasons – summer, fall, and winter. The man finally reached the castle of the dragon and where the sun was imprisoned. After several days, the dragon was defeated. Despite being wounded, the man was able to free the sun, which caused so much joy for those who had believed in the man. Nature was alive again, people got back their smiles, yet the man would not be able to make it through spring. His warm blood drained onto the snow, causing it to melt. White flowers, snowdrops, sprouted from the thawing soil. The man died, knowing he had served a noble purpose.
Since then, people braid two tassels, one red and one white. The red symbolizes the love for all that is beautiful and the blood of the brave young man, and the white symbolizes good health, purity, and the snowdrop, the first flower of spring.
These are two unique stories that I found interesting.
Peace Corps Founding
So March 1st also presented itself with another momentous occasion. This year it marked the 58th anniversary of Peace Corps’ founding. On March 1, 1961, the Peace Corps was created by an Executive Order by President Kennedy. So March first has a special place in my heart, even more so now, because of Mărțișor and Peace Corps.
To end Peace Corps Week, on March 2nd, I went into Chișinău with my host family. While there, I had a little get together with the other Peace Corps volunteers from my cohort. The gathering was with a PC manager from America who, with his wife, wanted to get to meet us. The weekend was a blast, as I ate too many sweets, saw PC volunteers, and was able to see all of my immediate host family.
To end what has been a busy last few weeks (and will continue to be as the weather continues to improve), I taught some young kids at the library how to play 3 different card games (Old Maid, Memory, and 3 of a kind). It was a little win, but one that I am very proud of. I was able to clearly state, in Romanian mind you, how to play the games. It was a great way to end the week on a high note.
More adventures will be happening in the next few days and I can hardly wait! Until next time, go grab yourself a cup of joe.
Which Mărțișor story did you like the best? Do you know of any other stories?