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December 1, 2021

Traditions: Martisor

Martisor is a traditional Romanian feast which celebrates the coming of spring. On this occasion, girls and women are offered “Martisor” charms, symbols of good luck and prosperity. “Martisor” charms were first attested among the ancient Dacians and legend has it women wore, at the time, coins or pebbles that used to be tied with red and white wool threads. On Martisor, parents would hang a coin around their children’s neck or wrist and would offer young people lively coloured beads tied on a chain. The gesture was meant to bring strength and good luck, and the Martisor charm was usually put on at dawn, before the sunrise. Martisor charms were made of red and white wool or hemp thread, knotted up in the shape of an eight and decorated with gold and silver coins. According to legend, between March 1 and 9, “Dochia’s days”, “Baba Dochia” (Old Dokia) is said to spin her yarn, wearing her nine coats, which she sheds one by one. It is said that the Martisor charm should be worn nine to twelve days and then tied onto a tree in bloom, to bring good luck and prosperity to the wearer. In Dobrogea, tradition has it that the Martisor charm has to be worn until the storks return and then thrown up towards the skies. In the Bihor area, there is a tradition that young maidens wash in rainwater to be healthier and fairer. In the Banat, it is said that maidens who wash in the dew collected from wild strawberries’ leaves will get married in the course of that year. In Transylvania, the Martisor charm is hung onto the gate, the windows or the horns of cattle to ward off the evil eye. Romanian traditions in the Transylvanian villages add colour to everyday life and consecrate the feast of Martisor as a time of transition between the end of winter, the cold and dark season, and the coming of spring, which is a time for rebirth and optimism.

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