Grumpy grandmother marks the first day of spring

It’s 1st March, known here in Bulgaria as Baba Marta Day. On this day,  and for a few days afterwards, Bulgarians exchange and wear white and red tassels or small dolls called “Пижо и Пенда” Pizho and Penda. Carole, my wife, made a bunch of the tassels for everyone in our village. It’s like an early form of Facebook – the more tassels you have on your wrist, the more friends you have.

Baba Marta (in Bulgarian баба Марта meaning Grandma March) is  a character from Bulgarian folklore. She is meant to be a grumpy old lady whose mood swings change very rapidly. And given that we still have a full metre of snow all around us today, with block ice underneath it, it probably means the old broad isn’t in a good mood today.

The old pagan tradition that remains almost unchanged today. Bulgarians believe that by wearing the red and white colours of the martenitsa they are asking Baba Marta for mercy. They hope that it will make winter pass faster and bring spring. The tradition calls for wearing the martenitsa until the person sees a stork or the first blossoms on a tree. The stork is considered a harbinger of spring and as evidence that Baba Marta is in a good mood and  about to retire.