Our penpals sent us traditional spring gifts in March: postcards and pins. Read the letter Paula wrote us to explain the "Mărțișor" tradition in Romania.
Mărțișor is an old Romanian celebration at the beginning of spring, on March the 1st, also considered as the beginning of the new year.Symbolically, it is correlated to women as a means of life and continuity. The name Mărțișor is the diminutive of marț, the old folk name for March (Martie, in modern Romanian), and thus literally means "little March". It is also the folk name for this month.
Mărțișor, marț and mărțiguș are all names for the red and white string from which a small decoration is tied, and which is offered by people on the 1st day of March. Giving this talisman to people is an old custom, and it is believed that the one who wears the red and white string will be strong and healthy for the year to come. It is also a symbol of the coming spring. Usually, women wear it pinned to their clothes for the first 12 days of the month, until other spring celebrations, or until the bloom of certain fruit-trees. Nowadays, and especially in urban areas, the Mărțișor lost most of its talisman properties and became more of a symbol of friendship or love, appreciation and respect.