A little over a year ago, in the weeks leading up to March 1st, I noticed folks (mostly old women but some young ones and some men) selling red-and-white dolls and red-and-white bracelets on every street corner. They appeared out of nowhere, and they were everywhere. And I had no clue what was going on.
A year later, I anxiously awaited their appearance, knowing all about Баба Марта, мартеници, and Баба Марта Day. And excluding Christmas, Баба Марта Day ranks a close second to Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday.
What makes Баба Марта Day so special?
Баба Марта Day heralds the end of the cold, bleak, gray days of winter and the beginning of spring. And spring is my favorite season. And no place I’ve ever been does spring better than Bulgaria. The country is a giant orchard of blooming fruit trees. Where there are no trees there are huge fields of wild poppy and rapeseed. Roadside ditches are lined with blooming forsythia. Breeding birds return and establish territories, singing from their favorite perches. Cuckoos call like clockwork, and White Storks announce their return by rattling their bills. Spring rains bring out salamanders in the forests and frogs in the marshes. And баби and дядовци turn over their gardens and begin working on the coming year’s crops. It’s simply a great time to be in Bulgaria.
Beyond that and perhaps in part as result of it, Баба Марта Day is a day about hope. People are pleasant to one another. Smiles are common. Wishes for a healthy and prosperous year are sincere. And everyone seems ready to put behind the dreary winter (and past) and get on with a more promising spring (and future).
Of course, Баба Марта has a mind of her own, and many of us are experiencing bitter cold and snow today. Hopefully she's just in one of those moods.
Vendors hawking мартеници in Sofia.