March 1st is a holiday that traditionally celebrates spring, love and peace in most of the Eastern European countries like Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria and Albania, and as well in some countries from the West, such as in Italy.
History of March 1st in Romania
According to archaeological research, the “Mărțișor” traces its history more than 8000 years ago, many specialists considering that this celebration has Roman origins and others saying that this is an old Dacian tradition.
In the ancient Rome, the New Year’s was celebrated on March 1st, month that was named in the honour of the god Mars, which wasn’t only the god of war, but also the god of agriculture, thing that contributes to the regeneration of vegetation.
In ancient Roman tradition, the ides of March were the perfect time to embark on military campaigns, so in this context it is thought that the red string symbolises vitality, while white is the symbol of victory. Red and white are also complementary colours present in many key traditions of Daco – Roman folklore.
Symbols and traditions now and then
This festival is celebrated every year on March 1st, but it is not considered a public holiday, not even in Romania where it is known as “Mărțișor” and its traditions can be widely observed since many decades ago, when people started celebrating it for the first time.
Not long ago, in Romania, in the countryside, people used to celebrate the “Mărțișor” by hanging a red and white string at their gate, window, cattle’s horn and shed, in order to protect against evil spirits and at the same time to invoke nature’s regenerative power.
In the olden times, the string could be red and black. The talisman is believed to bring strength and health to the person who wears it, being also a symbol of the coming spring. Usually, both men and women wear it pinned to their clothes until the last day of the month, moment when they tie it to a fruit – tree.
More than that, in some regions, a gold or a silver coin is hanged on the string and is worn around the neck for twelve days. After this period, with the coin, people used to buy red wine and sweet cheese, according to a belief that said their faces would remain white as the cheese and rubicund as wine for the whole year.
In modern times, and especially in the urban areas, the “Mărțișor” lost its old properties and became more a symbol for friendship, love and appreciation, but is still celebrated on March 1st. Nowadays, people from Romania are buying silky red – white threads tied into a bow and offering them to women from their families, workplaces or friend groups, as a sign of friendship, respect and admiration.