Bulgaria Celebrates Its Traditional 'Baba Marta' Holiday
Tuesday sees Bulgaria celebrate one of its most loved traditional holydays - Baba Marta, which is believed to mark the beginning of spring.
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.
As folklore often goes there are different versions of the Baba Marta tale. One says that on that day she does her pre-spring cleaning and shakes her mattress for the last time before the next winter - all the feathers that come out of it pour on Earth like snow - the last snow of the year.
On March 1, almost everyone in Bulgaria can be seen with a Martenitsa - a small piece of adornment, made of white and red yarn, which will be warn until around the end of the month (or the first time an individual sees a stork, swallow or budding tree - the first signs that spring has arrived.)
A legend goes that the martenitsa tradition has been inspired by Bulgaria's first Khan Asparuh, who sent a white string to his wife to tell her he survived a battle.
People are supposed to take off their martenitsas when they see the first signs that spring has already come - a blooming tree or a stork.
When the martenitsa is taken off, many people tie it to a tree - one that they'd like to be especially fruitful. Others place it under a rock and based on what they find there the next morning guess what kind of a year this one would be.
The martenitsa now comes in all shapes and sizes - from Guiness-worth giant building packages to two tiny simple strings gently placed on a newborn's arm.
However, it always bears the same meaning - a lucky charm against the evil spirits of the world, a token for health and a sign of appreciation.
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