The name March comes from the Latin Martius, i.e. ‘of Mars’, the god of war, son of Jupiter and Junona. Old Bulgarians called it “birch month” – the birch trees grow leaves and give sap. Very early in the morning, before the month begins, the young girls get up so that Granny Marta does not piss on their eyes and make them feel sleepy the whole summer. The young ones must be the first to meet the willful old woman and thus she will be smiling and merry and the weather will be good and sunny. In March people don’t have their hair cut so that she does not “cut” their brains and they become stupid.


1 March MARTOUVANE (Martenitzas)

Many, many years ago, Khan Isperih left
his home in the far away Tibetan mountains and went in search of fertile land for his people, the proto-Bulgarians. He crossed many mountains and rivers until finally he stopped in the land of the Slavs who met him cordially.
Slav women, dressed in white, brought him cups of wine and the tables
were piled with food, the fruits of this blessed land. But the khan was not happy for he was sick for his family – his mother and his sister Kalina. He sat on the bank of the big river and tears like pearls dropped down his masculine cheeks. His eyes looked in prayer towards the sun and the gods. And the miracle happened. A swift swallow alighted on his shoulder. Isperih told her his grief. The swallow flew away to the lands from which the Bulgarians came and told Kalina in a human voice that her brother has a new kingdom, that he grieves about her and sends her greetings. Kalina was very happy to hear that and decided to send a message to her brother. She made a nosegay of green plants, tied it with white woolen thread, made some knots on it meaning best regards and sent it back
with the swallow. The bird flew like thunder and very soon was on the shoulder of Isperih again. But after the long journey its wing was wounded and bright red blood had tinted the thread. The khan took the nosegay with joy, read in the knots his sister’s greetings, put the nosegay on his breast and the martenitza shone bright. Since then Isperih ordered his people to make a bunch of twisted white and red thread and wear it on their breasts on this day – for health and blessing from heaven. This happened on 1st of March
and has remained until this day. In the morning of 1st of March people set fire in the yards of their houses, with lots of smoke. Then everybody jumps over the fire three times, facing the rising sun, in order to be purified from evil forces and guarded against diseases. The lady of the house takes out red clothes and fabrics and puts them on the branches of the trees in front of the house and on the fence. Only then she decorates the children and the animals with the martenitzas made from woolen or cotton thread.
Christians tell the story that many years ago, when people were merry they dressed in white clothes. Thus on an early morning of 1st of March, in the year when Jesus was to come among the people, Virgin Mary,
dressed in white, stood in the middle of the room in front of the fire, cut a strip of her skirt and died it with her virgin blood. Then she twisted it with another white strip and decorated her breast. She went out on the verandah to meet the first rays of the sun and announce to the universe the expected fertility
and to bless it… And Jesus Christ was born, consubstantial with God the Father, incarnated by the Holy
Ghost and Virgin Mary – the Holy Mother. Since then the twisted white and red is called “martenitza”. On the first day of March all Bulgarian women, all children and the domestic animals are decorated with it to be healthy, to be fertile and bring happiness to the family. According to Christians living
along the river Tonsos, this Bulgarian custom is unique and expresses homage to the Mother of God.
In the traditional Bulgarian martenitza women entwine coins, cloves of dry garlic, beads, iron rings, hairs of horsetail, snail shells, etc. That is why the martenitza is considered to be a charm against evil forces.
Children wear their martenitzas on the right wrist, around the neck or on the breast, while young girls and brides wear it around the neck or woven into their hair. Men, however, tie the martenitza above their left elbow or left ankle. In some regions they put it in the shoe under the left heel for if someone sees them with a martenitza their masculinity may be “tied”. Martenitzas are tied on young animals and the fruit trees.
People wear the martenitza until they see a stork. Then they tie it on a fruit-tree branch, make a wish and are sure that it will come true. Nameday of Marta, Martin.

6 March. Nameday of Krasimir, Krasimira, whom people call ‘decoration of the world’.

9 March MLADENTZI (The Day of the Holy Forty Martyrs)

The Christian holiday Holy Forty Martyrs is also called “Svetoto” or All Saints’ Day. A legend of the Bulgarians from the village
of Zelenovka, Tavria, tells how God on this day drives 40 red-hot spits into the earth to warm it and “the sun turns towards summer” and people can sow and plant. As a protection against measles women bake small breads, cover them with honey, smoke them with incense and give them out to neighbors for the health of the children. Every housewife on this day cooks 40 red
peppers stuffed with rice. Everyone tries to eat 40 different things on this day. People don’t kill birds, don’t scald wool so as not to
make Grandmother Measles angry. Children go up a high hill, roll down stones and say: "Roll out, Winter, roll in Summer!"
On that day snakes and lizards come out of their holes. People light fires, jump over them and get in the smoke to banish evil
forces. The one who kills a snake on that day must cut its head, put seeds of sweet basil in it and bury it into the ground. The seedlings that grow out of them are magical. Lasses and lads, decorated with nosegays of such basil, are protected against diseases and evil eyes and make others fall head over heels in love with them. (The Day of the Holy Forty Martyrs)

10 March. Nameday of Galya, Galyo, which means ‘black, tawny’.
23 March. Nameday of Lydia. “Lida” in the folk beliefs is a “spoilt lass”.
24 March. Nameday of Zahari, Zaharina. The name comes from Hebrew and means ‘God remembers’.

25 March BLAGOVESHTENIE (The Annunciation) (Blagovetz)

To meet the summer clean and tidy people sweep their yards and their houses before Blagovetz, and the garbage is always burnt in order to burn the illnesses of the year. On Blagovetz women sow pumpkins so
they will become white and mellow, while the silk-worm breeders put silk-worm eggs in their bosoms and watch that the weather on this day is good so that the year will be rich and the silk produced will be good.
People open the bee hives and let the bees out to collect sweet honey.
On Blagovetz people meet the storks and the swallows. This is also a festive day for the children who, on seeing a bird, cry merrily at the sky: “Stork, motley and long-legged, bring me health with hellebore!” Maidens for whom it is time to get married, on seeing a swallow, are quick to tie three knots on their kerchiefs and pronounce with hope: “Swallow, my dear sister, give me a sign what man will take me!” They put the kerchief on top of the oven to stay there for three days and three nights, after which they take it in their hands and start divining: If they notice mud on the cloth
– the bridegroom will be a builder, if they find a scrap of paper – he will be a teacher… Everybody on this day, before hearing the song of the cuckoo, tries to be well fed, to have money in the pocket and a good
feeling at heart, in order to be content, rich and joyful during the year. Blagovetz is also celebrated by the treasure- hunters. It is believed that at places where there is money buried in the ground, late in the night before Blagovetz the coins emanate a blue glow above the earth. That is why from midnight until the first crow of the rooster treasure-hunters visit mounds, dry wells and deserted places, hoping to see the glow which will give them riches. The nameday of Blagoy, Blagovesta.

28–31 March BABINI DNI
(Granny Marta’s Days)

Long, long ago, when the days of Granny Marta were 28 in number, in a little village tucked away in the mountain there lived a quarrelsome old woman with her two white goats. On the last day of the month the sun shone and the old woman took the goats to the hill to get some sun and graze young sprouts. But being a shrew, she didn’t miss
making fun of Granny Marta for her going away and cried at the forest: “Marta – parta, go away, I took out my goats, be-e-e-…” Granny Marta grew angry but her time was running out. She flew to her brother February and asked him to borrow three of his days. Like a good little brother, February gave them to her. Then Granny Marta started
raging, piercing whirlwinds blew and the ground was frozen with ice. The old woman and her two goats were frozen too. From that day Marta grew with three days and the people respect these days. They don’t work in the fields lest they should make the granny angry. In some villages these days are called "borrowed" and people sow beans by their houses for they grow to be sweeter. If the weather is clear and nice, people know that silkworms in the spring will be healthy and there will be much silk. If the days are cloudy and rainy, the silkworms will be weak and the fruit will not grow well.


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