Romanian Spring Traditions (part 1) – Martisor and Baba Dochia

Baba Dochia_snowdropsYou know spring is at the door when you see the snowdrops invading the garden.  As a woman, of any age, you know that this is the beginning of a month that will spoil you. As a man, you know this is the beginning of a stressful month. But it’s not that bad. Actually March is kind of like spring Christmas. Flowers are starting to bloom, it’s right after the month of love, February, so why not continuing on this note and keep on giving. 🙂

The very first day of March starts with a beautiful tradition in Romania. The “Martisor” is a symbol of spring, a lucky charm, a symbol of rebirth. The history of the Martisor starts in the year 681 on the shore of the Danube. It is said that the sister and brother of the Han were prisoners and he sent word that he will help them escape by sending a messenger hawk with a white string tied to one of its legs. They did manage to get out of imprisonment but the brother was killed on the shore of the Danube. Consumed with grief the sister sent a hawk to the Han with a white string dipped in her brother’s blood to let him know what happened. The Han was devastated with sadness. He ordered his men to wear a red and white piece of wool twisted together, around their wrist for good luck, and called it “Martinitza”.

The Martisor has traveled in history , from the Daco-Tracian times, where 1st of May was New Year, also a deity representing war, love and rebirth, depending on the region, and all the way to present day where the Martisor is given as a symbol of friendship, appreciation or even love to the girls from the boys.

Today the Martisor comes in all shapes and sizes, from the paper made flower, to the diamond ring. But regardless the shape or price of it, the Martisor, is not what it’s should be without a silk red and white string.

In Moldova and Transylvania the Martisor is worn for 7 to 12 days around the neck or wrist of the girl. After that the girls take it off and throw it in the air for the cranes or storks to catch it so they will have good luck. In the south, near the Danube, the boys tie the string around the girls’ wrist and on the 8 of March if they take of the red and white string from the girls’ wrist they will be together that year. In Dobrogea the tradition is to keep the Martisor until the 8th of March and then the girls will tie it to a tree branch, and if it blooms in the next 7 days they will find love.

Another tradition at the beginning of March is “Baba Dochia”. There are many sides to her story. Some say she was the daughter of dacian king Decebalus and that Traian, the roman emperor that defeated the dacians, fell in love with her and sent his men to capture her. She fled to the mountains and hid under a rock on the sacred mountain of Ceahlau. She stayed there hidden for so long that she turned into a rock. Another story tells us that Dochia was the mother of Dragobete. When he got married Dochia started to treat her daughter in law really bad. Once she sent her to the river to wash the wool and told her to not come back until the wool is white as snow. No matter how much she tried the girl could not make the wool white. As she was crying , her fingers bloody from rubbing the wool, Christ appeared and gave her a red flower, touched by her sadness, and told her to put the flower in the water and the wool will become white. She put the flower in the water with the wool and when she pulled the wool out, it was bright white. When she told Dochia her story, the old lady did not believe her, instead accused her that Martisor, because that’s what the girl called Christ not recognizing him, was the girl’s lover. After that Dochia left with the sheep flock to the mountains so they can graze. On the way, believing that it was spring, that being the only way the girl could have gotten a flower, she started shedding her 8 coats one by one. By night it got colder and colder and Dochia together with the flock froze to death. They turned to stone and the rock formation can still be seen today in the Ceahlau Mountains.

Ceahlau Mountains - ABC Travel Romania

Girls today choose a day between the 1st and the 8th of March, representing the coats of Dochia, and depending on the weather that’s how your year will be.

Spring is here everyone, so let’s celebrate it with flowers, a Martisor, and a trip in the reborn nature. We invite you to discover the Green Parks of Bucharest or the beautiful gardens and surroundings of Snagov Monastery, Mogosoaia Palace and Stirbey Palace.

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