On March 1st, Romanians celebrate Mărțișor, which marks spring arrival. Romania is the only country that celebrates this tradition. On this day, men and women receive Romanian souvenirs that have a red and white string and they symbolize a token of appreciation.
This tradition dates back as far as 8,000 years and it originated in ancient Rome when Mars was the god of March. Mars was the god of war, but also the god of agriculture and protector of the fields.
According to the Roman calendar, March 1st was the first day of the year. Dacians used to celebrate the arrival of spring by making ancient amulets out of white and red pebbles.
What Is the Symbolistic behind This Romanian Souvenir?
Back in the day, the red and white string was the authentic trinket. The first objects attached to it were gold and silver coins. These were followed by small pieces of silver jewelry, then, later on, the trinkets were made out of wood.
The popular tradition says clover-shaped trinkets bring luck and the anchor symbolizes faith. Nowadays, the red and white string can be attached to a variety of objects.
In the countryside, people would even hang the string in front of their gate or at their windows. They believed it protects them against evil spirits.
These Romanian souvenirs are worn only for one or two weeks and the string symbolizes prosperity and luck. In Bukovina and Moldavia, men are the ones who receive trinkets from women and sometimes even flowers. In the other regions, it’s the other way around.
The Legend of Dochia
Dochia was an old lady and a very popular character in Romanian mythology. Her story is linked to this celebration.
The legend says Dochia had a stepdaughter and she made her do intense work. On a winter day, the old lady told her daughter to go to the river and wash a black coat until it became white as snow. That didn’t happen, of course. While the girl was struggling with the coat, a man appeared out of nowhere. He was called Mărțișor.
He gave the stepdaughter a flower with red and white petals, which magically made the coat white as snow. The old woman was shocked to see the girl managed to accomplish the task. Then, she saw the flower in the girl’s hair.
She thought spring came, so she took the herd in the mountains. On the way, the weather was nice and warm, so she left all of the coats she was wearing. When she arrived at the top of the mountain, she was caught by drizzle and fog. Then, Mărțișor appeared again and this time he told the old lady: “See how uncomfortable it is to be out in the cold?” and he disappeared.
The old lady remained alone in the mountains. The legend claims before she left, she spun a red and white string. It is considered the white string symbolizes winter and red the summer.
Where to buy Romanian trinkets
Starting at the end of February, the city center is usually packed with merchants who sell trinkets. However, we’d recommend you to go to the Village Museum if you want to buy or look at authentic and traditional trinkets.
If you’re interested in more Romanian souvenirs, then check out this article where we talked about ten of the best ones.
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