Globalization Paradox: China-Made Martenitsas Invade Bulgarian Market

Business | February 28, 2011, Monday // 18:32
Bulgaria: Globalization Paradox: China-Made Martenitsas Invade Bulgarian Market Pictured: a traditional Bulgarian martenitsa. File photo

As Bulgaria is about to celebrate its centuries-old tradition of "Baba Marta" or "Martenitsa", its market has been inundated with martenitsas produced in China.

This paradox of the globalization is perplexing and shocking to many in Bulgaria as the Martenitsa holiday is a truly indigenous Bulgarian folklore tradition.

Eagerly followed on March 1 every single year, the tradition of giving one's friends red-and-white interwoven strings brings health and happiness during the year and is a reminder that spring is near.

Celebrated on March 1, Baba Marta (Grandma March) is believed to be a feisty lady who always seems to be grudging at her two brothers, while the sun only comes out when she smiles.

In addition to its folklore aspects, the Martenitsa holiday also has important economic ramifications for many Bulgarian families – especially for elderly people – who spent the entire year making martenistas in order to sell them on March 1, and thus earn a little extra for their modest family budgets.

While these people often offer true works of art, their business, however, is undercut by the cheap Chinese-made martenitsas, which were on sale for just BGN 0.01 in the southern city of Plovdiv a day before March 1.

The martenitsas imported from China are also resented because they are often completely out of line with the Bulgarian traditions. An example in hand is the emergence of Chinese-made martenitsas with white and orange threads, while the actual Bulgarian martenitsas are supposed to be white and red.

Many of the imported martenitsas also feature what are seen as distasteful plastic figures attached to them. Yet, their low price is the reason many people do buy them.

According to Svetla Rakshieva, director of the Bulgarian Ethnographic Museum, the way the Chinese-made martenitsas are produced shows that those who made them have no idea of what the Bulgarian martenitsa stands for, and what it should look like. She is concerned that the imported martenitsas bring in elements of a foreign identity.

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Tags: martenitsa, Baba Marta, China, imports, traditions, customs, holidays

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