The Romanian spring celebration known as Mărțișor (loosely translated as „Little March”) is celebrated every year on March 1st in Romania and other neighboring countries. The customs vary from region to region, but on this day, people gift each other with small pieces of jewelry adorned with intertwining white and red strings. It symbolizes good luck and prosperity in the coming year. These are worn for two to nine weeks, and after that, they’re hung from the branches of trees, from door frames, window frames, or the horns of domestic animals, to protect their owners from evil spirits.
In Transylvania, only girls and women receive Mărțișoare from boys and men, but in other parts of the country, it’s the other way around, the girls receiving them only on March 8th. Traditionally, they’re worn as brooches, or as simple strings around the wrist, but a modern Mărțișor can come in other shapes, such as expensive jewelry, perfumes, plush toys, and much more, as long as they have the traditional white and red string.
Even though symbolically this tradition reminds us of spring, its origins seem to have come from the Roman New Year, which was celebrated on March 1st. The residents of the territory now known as Romania adopted many Roman customs before they were Christianized, but this one kept its pagan elements.
The March celebrations were tightly connected with the Roman god Mars (the equivalent of Ares), the god of agriculture and war. His symbolic colors, white and red, are found in the thread of the Mărțișor. The New Year was celebrated in this region until 1700. Archeologists discovered several artifacts that represent the Mărțișor tradition, including coins with red and white strings, or rocks painted in the same colors.
Some historians claim this tradition could have been celebrated for 8000 years or more.
Today the business with Mărțișoare is booming all across Romania where handmade fairs are organized in every big city weeks in advance.