Mărțișor or Martenitsa is a celebration at the beginning of spring, on March the 1st in Romania, Moldova and all territories inhabited by Romanians.
The word Mărțișor is the diminutive of Marț, the old folk name for March (martie, in modern Romanian), and thus literally means “little March”.
Mărțișor, marț and mărțiguș are all names for the red and white string with hanging tassel customarily given on the 1st day of March. In the olden times, the string could be red and black. Giving this talisman to people is an old custom, and it is believed that the wearer will be strong and healthy for the year to come. It is also a symbol of the coming spring. Usually, both women and men wear it pinned to their clothes, close to the heart, until the last day of March, when they tie it to a fruit-tree twig. In some regions, a gold or silver coin hangs on the string and is worn around the neck. After wearing it for a certain length of time, they buy red wine and sweet cheese with the coin, according to a belief that their faces would remain white as cheese and rubicund as wine all year.
In modern times, and especially in urban areas, the Mărțișor lost most of its talisman properties and became more a symbol of friendship, love, appreciation and respect. The black threads were replaced by red, but the delicate wool string is still a ‘cottage industry’ among people in the countryside, who comb out the wool, dye the floss, and twist it into thousands of tassels. In some areas, the amulets are still made with black and white string, to ward off evil. Related to the Mărțișor and also symbol for spring in Romania is the snowdrop flower.
Lovely traditon! The world could use more traditions like this!