Grandma March Day – cultural practices on the Balkans

IMartenican certain parts of the Balkan (Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova) there is a custom associated with the first day of March. It is called “Grandma March” Day. On this day typical red and white tassels, pom-poms or knit (braided) bracelets are exchanged, given to loved ones and they are worn pinned on clothing or tied on the wrist. The hand-made amulets are known by many names as: Martinki (Мартинки in Macedonia), Mártenitsa (Мартеница in Bulgaria), Mărţişor (in Romania and Moldova) and they are associated with the beginning of the spring, when this small artifacts made of red and white woolen thread containing a message with good and positive feelings and expectations, is given to the loved ones. People wear them until the nature starts to bloom and then hang them on trees.

In general, these amulets are very positive custom practiced by many people reminding them on a childhood and everybody remember this event with much joy and emotion from the time of their childhood. It’s about a beautiful custom spread throughout one part of the Balkan Peninsula, which we want to promote it outside its indigenous areas.

Since 2013, the custom associated with this amulets was proposed to be protected as intangible cultural heritage with the multinational application to UNESCO, in which the Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria and Moldavia takes part. The application is still ongoing and it is one of the strongest link connected to our work bringing on the daylight a topic less known for the tradition of the Balkan people.

HAEMUS support for the multinational application about martinki in UNESCO

The project about martinki was started by HAEMUS at the end of 2013/begging of 2014, since the organization is bearer of this heritage in Macedonia, respect the martinki as an intangible cultural heritage and takes care about the spirit of the tradition, in all its shapes and ways, which will contribute to their wider promotion. Alongside the public audience, the promotion of the martinki is especially focused on children of pre-school and school age. Special workshops were created to help children visualize and create knowledge on tradition and multiculturalism. Below is the statement by HAEMUS which was sent to Macedonian authorities in order to provide support for multinational application to UNESCO about the martinki, in which the Republic of Macedonia also takes part.

On March 01, 2014, at 11:00 am, UNESCO Club HAEMUS hosted a public event at Skopje City Mall entitled “Grandma March” Day. Happy First of March! (mk. Среќна Баба Марта) is an annual event held by HAEMUS on 01.03. celebrating both, the beginning of the spring and ancient tradition connected with wearing of martinki (mk. мартинки). The event was supported by Cultural Heritage Protection Office and Institute of folklore “Marko Cepenkov”.

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In 2016 HAEMUS started the “Grandma March Day – cultural practices on the Balkans” implemented by the institutional cross-border partnership ”National Identities within the United Europe”. The main aim of the project is protection of common cultural heritage such as the customs related to the 1st march, through promotion and popularization. Within this project, we designed the series of events shaped as an exhibition, to show the unique, but still multinational character of this cultural practices associated to the first of March. The exhibition is comprised by many elements in order to transmit a message as well as to to inspire the future generation to preserve, to protect and to promote the “Grandma March Day”.

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Typical amulets around the wrist given to the loved ones for love, luck and health
(photo and the amulet courtesy by HAEMUS)

In 2017 we are proceeding with our aim to promote and to protect martinki as an intangible cultural heritage that belongs to the whole world and we prepared several consecutive events. Please return to our web site, the info will be updated very soon.

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