This article is from the Bulgaria FAQ, by Dragomir R. Radev firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
(by by Luben Boyanov)
On the first day of March, Bulgarians wish each other health and happiness
with "Chestita baba Marta" - (in English "Happy Grandma Marta"). "Marta"
comes from the word for March (Mart) in Bulgarian. This is an ancient
Bulgarian (pagan) tradition (well - I can't tell you how old but I think
that it's more than one thousand years old) and symbolizes the end of the
cold winter and the coming of the spring. Usually we put something in red
and white (a thread in the past and commercialized plastic junk at present)
on ourselves (on our wrist or clothes) and when we see the first stork
(supposed to come back from the south and not the one in the Zoo) we throw
the red and white thread on a tree. The red and white colours symbolize the
snow and the blood from an old story where, a stork brings the blessing for
health to a small child from its parents, who are far away. The giving of the
"marteniza" makes you feel to expect the Spring very soon. The "arrival" of
the stork indicates that this has happened. I don't have time now to tell
the entire story but I'm sure somebody will.
The lack of "real" winter and "storks" (not a lot of them in the cities :-()
raises some difficulties in implementing this tradition nowadays but
Bulgarians are still celebrating and very fond of the 1st of March (in a
traditional and "modern" way at the same time).
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