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Every year spring in Bulgaria begins with seasonal fairs where only one thing is on sale – the Martenitsa. It is a pagan decoration used to attract good luck and celebrate the arrival of storks and spring. The post will cover the latest trends noticed in the Burgas markets regarding the sale of martenitsa.

The traditional Martenitsa is a small red and white cotton bracelet or a brooch in the shape of two dolls, one depicting a white male and the other a red female. However, every year Bulgarian artisans rework the tradition taking into account the latest trends in fashion and craftsmanship.

Martenitsa is also the name of the fest of the same name, which means ‘Grandma Marta’.

The creation of small puppets with red and white threads represents the oldest Bulgarian cultural tradition. This custom dates back to the 7th century, and annually, in February, it unites millions of Bulgarians of different generations. Creative workshops take place in all schools, libraries and museums. The martenitsas are exchanged or sold at fairs.

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Bulgarians tie them to their wrists, clothes or backpacks starting from March 1st, Baba Marta’s day until the wearer sees a stork or a tree in bloom for the first time or until the end of March. After that, people tie the martenitsas to the trees. According to tradition, martenitsa is the lucky charm for attracting health, happiness, luck and protection from evil spirits.

In 2017, UNESCO added this tradition to the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
As I noticed on the markets of Burgas this spring, the sellers offer martenitsas decorated with elements of wool, beads, wood, plastic and metal with zodiac signs, figures of animals, birds, houses, etc.

Prices range from 0.25 cents to 5 euros per piece, and the dimensions of the decorations vary from 3 cm to 35 cm.
My choices this year are two pieces: a pair of traditional dolls for a backpack + an original bracelet with a metal owl and geometric decorations for a wrist.

Find out more about Bulgarian culture in the People and Places sections of this blog.