March 1 is the day Romanians celebrate ‘Martisor’, an old tradition related to spring and hopes. Traditionally boys give to girls, as gifts, the ‘Martisor’ symbol; nevertheless, there are several regions in Romania where the girls are the ones to offer the gifts.
This year, however, the celebration of spring has a touch of cold winter, with schools closed this week in the southern part of the country and with many people affected by cold and flu.
The oldest ‘Martisor’ seems to date back to 1879 and was made as a silver heart, another one depicts a flying swallow, made in 1898.
Its significance is related to the symbol of spring, of nature’s coming to life again.
In time the shape of ‘Martisor’ has changed to small river stones painted red and white and stung on cords. Currently fashionable are multicoloured beads, pottery and flowers.
Old Roman calendars read that March 1 was the first day of the year and ‘Matronalia’ was celebrated, hosting the celebrations of Mars, the god of forces of nature, of spring and agriculture. In some Romanian regions there is a saying that ‘Baba Dochia’ (old woman Dochia) would call back the frost if people work this very day.
A legend of ‘Martisor’ says the Sun, transformed into a young man, came down to the village, but was taken away and locked by an evil dragon. Everything went sad: birds did not sing anymore, springs were not flowing, children did not laugh anymore. Nobody dared to confront the dragon, until one day when a young man went to the dragon’s castle and fought him. After defeating the dragon, the Sun was released and everyone was happy, as nature revived. However, the brave young man did not live to see the spring. Blood poured out of his wounds onto the snow. That is why young people began weave two threads, red and white, and offer them to the loved ones.