Growing up in Romania until the age of 9, I remember a special holiday that was celebrated every March 1st. On this day boys would hand out these little trinkets called “Martisor” (word is partly formed with the word Martie = March and means something like “little March or dear March”) to the girl they liked/loved as well as to the females in their lives such as moms, sisters, grandmas and so on.
I alwasy loved those little trinkets and remember looking forward to when I was older and a boy would hand one to me. I don’t think I ever knew the background to why this day was celebrated, however even now 22 years later I remember celebrating this day and really cherishing the martisoare I received from loved ones.
Tonight after putting my boys to bed I decided to google this holiday. I figured I would just type in martisor and see what happens. Can I say how much I love this internet age we are living in, anything you need to know at the click of a button. To say that I was impressed and a little amused at what my search uncovered, is stating it mildly. Apparently there is this whole legend tied to the holiday. I really can’t translate some of the words I read throughout my search, for example the word “Zmeu”, but google again came to the rescue. Google’s definition of Zmeu is a -Fantastic creature of Romanian Folklore – my definition – some sort of evil dragon/warlock type of creature.
The legend begins with… you guessed it – A long, long time ago or in other words Once Upon a Time – the SUN decided to take on the body of a young man and join in the festivities of a village celebration. An evil ZMEU saw this and decided to capture the young man and lock him in a dungeon. The disappearance of the sun brought on much grief and turmoil to all of humanity. It is said that at this point the rivers refuse to flow, the birds ceased to sing and even the children stopped laughing.
Nobody knew what to do until one day a strong young man decided to confront the Zmeu and free the Sun from his dungeon. The journey to find the location of the Zmeu and the dungeon where the Sun was being held prisoner, took 3 seasons, Summer, Autumn and Winter. But at long last towards the end of Winter, the young man located the castle where the Zmeu lived. He fought with the Zmeu and after many days was able to defeat him. However the young man was badly injured in the battle and after finding and freeing the Sun he died, his body falling to the ground and his blood flowing out on the newly fallen snow. The Sun being liberated, ascended to the sky to proclaim the arrival of Spring, this caused joy to once again return to the hearts of the people.
It is since that time that young men give a little martisor – meaning an amulet or talisman which consists of a jewel or flower tied to a white and red string. Red symbolizes the love of all that is beautiful and white is the symbol for purity and new beginnings and sometimes connected with the snow drop, the first flower to peak it’s head out from beneath the blankets of snow. The martisor being a symbol of love, spring, beauty and purity, it is worn by the ladies who having received one will continue to wear it until the roses bloom or tille Palm Sunday. At which point the red string is taken and placed on a red rose or attached to a branch on a tree. If that tree blooms then that person will have good luck.
What an interesting holiday legend, I really enjoyed finding out some of the legends behind this celebration, and there are many of them but i liked the fairytale-like quality of this one. I encourage you to check out the other stories related to this holiday you will find a variety of very interesting ones. For me though, this story really reminded me of being a little girl in Romania and reading many fairytales and I felt then as i still do today, Romanian legends are very fantastical. I like that. 🙂
La Multi Ani!!!