A Bulgarian colleague came into the staffroom and said, “this is our tradition” as she tied a length of red and white cord holding a small medallion around my wrist. There was no further explanation, and, not being one for wearing jewellery of any sort, I took it off yesterday evening.
In the staffroom this morning, I noticed other colleagues still wearing the red and white bracelets. Had I committed a faux pas by removing mine?
I asked one what the bracelet meant. “It’s about good luck.” Perhaps then I had committed the equivalent of breaking a mirror.
What was the bracelet about? Not knowing it’s name, I typed “red white cord bracelet” into Google and found an explanation.
“A Martenitsa is a small ornament (usually a bracelet or a brooch), most often made of wool or cotton yarn in two basic colors – white and red, which Bulgarians tie around their wrists or clip on their clothes each year on March 1st for health and good luck. March 1st is also known as the celebration of Baba Marta (Grandmother Marta).
There is more than one legend associated with the origin of the Bulgarian martenitsa, but all of them are related to the Proto-Bulgarians and the founder of the Bulgarian country – Khan Asparuh (640-701).
One of the most widespread stories is about the five sons of Khan Kubrat and his only daughter, Hubba (Beauty – from bg. Хубав [hubav]). He bequeathed them the decree not to divide and protect Bulgaria. After the death of their father, the sons quickly forgot his wise counsel, and they were defeated by the Hunshire leader Han Ashina. He conquered their possessions and carried away Hubba in thrall. The brothers started looking for a new land, while their sister was waiting to hear from them. And the good news arrived with the coming of the spring, brought by a falcon. In the letter, Asparuh told her that he had found a piece of Heaven south of the Danube and would settle there. Hubba escaped, led by the falcon to whose leg was tied a white silk thread. The bird took her to the new land, but an enemy arrow hit the falcon and his blood stained the thread.
The white color of the martenitsa originally symbolized the male beginning – the power. But later under the influence of Christianity, the color’s meaning shifted to joy, beauty, purity and integrity, peace and love, health and abundance instead. The red color indicates the feminine beginning – health. It is a symbol of blood, conception, birth, warmth, friendship and mutual affection
The martenitsa is taken off when one sees a blooming tree, a stork or a swallow. The person makes a wish and ties his martenitsa to the tree or puts it under a stone.”
If I put it back on, will I recover my luck?