the skinflint philosopher

Attempting to thrift our way to a better life, with a toddler in tow!

A knees-up with Granny March


As if the heavy snow didn’t give everyone an excuse for some time off work anyway, (and the schools have been closed for days and when then happens in a country that is used to winter snow that says something about the conditions outside) then today is also a Bulgarian national holiday. Happy March 1st!


For the non-Bulgarians out there, see if you can spot someone around the world today wearing a red and white buttonhole or wristband. If you do, go up and say to them Zdravei! Happy Baba Marta!, as I guarantee they will be Bulgarian (or from the Balkans) and will smile back at you with pleasure. This is a custom that is more welcome than Christmas.


Way back in the annals of time, in the 7th century the first Bulgarian king Khan Asparuh was busy pitting his armies against the Byzantine empire, and following a fearsome victory he sent eagles with white threads tied around their talons as a message to announce his success to the main camp. The trailing threads picked up bloodstains from the battlefield, and the red and white martenitsa was invented.
An alternative story is that Huba, the sister of Khan Asparuh escaped captivity and in fleeing home to her brother and the new territory he had claimed that would become modern Bulgaria, she could not cross the mighty Danube river to reach safety. She tied a white thread on to the leg of a falcon, and sent him across the river to find a safe passage, while she followed the thread trail below. One of her kidnappers in pursuit shot the falcon with an arrow and his blood mixed with the white thread even as he led Huba to safety across the river.


The modern martenitsa token given as a gift to your nearest and dearest on March 1st has now a slightly less gory legend, and where white thread or yarn symbolises purity and beauty, and the red is vitality, love, courage and life. Put the two together and you have the perfect token of friendship, love, good luck and health.  Red and white can also symbol life and death, or the sun and melting snow. Traditionally some martenitsa take the form of two yarn dolls, the white male Pizho and the red female known as Penda. Nowadays though other symbolism has crept in, and Tiddler was quite happy with her ladybird and panda martenitsa that Digger gave her this morning over breakfast.


March 1st itself (the start of the traditional Bulgarian New Year) celebrates grumpy old Baba Marta (Granny March) who is the personification of early spring, indicating the coming of future fertility and prosperity, while still being a little bit erratic and unpredictable! Wearing a martenitsa will pacify Baba Marta and bring spring along a little quicker and with slightly less extreme and changeable weather. Bulgarians will wear the martenitsa either until March 22nd, the coming of real spring according to the calendar, or until they see the first stork of the year, or the first blossoming tree, when the martenitsa are then tied on to the branches like a huge shower of red and white confetti.

As I am sitting here writing this, I am thinking of friends and loved ones who I will not see for many months, and I am wishing you all a Happy Baba Marta, and a means to find a way to pacify the angry or awkward Baba Marta’s that may cross your path.




Author: Theskinflintphilosopher

Call me thrifty, prudent, tight or even a miser, but squirreling money away is definitely my thing. The ins and outs of how saving money became a lifestyle, in order to work towards a specific lifestyle change. Follow me on that journey and learn to look at life in a different way.

6 thoughts on “A knees-up with Granny March

  1. I love finding out about customs, symbolism and legends, its wonderful to know they continue in countries like Bulgaria. I love this one and certainly want to wear a martenitsa today as it is literally freezing (sub zero) so unusual for the Isle of Man and blowing a hoolie too. Pity I’m not heading in to town as I would love to greet someone wearing one, will remember for next year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I agree that although I want Tiddler to understand and be aware of her Bulgarian heritage, it is just as much fun for me learning about all these things too! We will definitely get the best of both worlds as we can take part in both UK and Bulgarian celebrations and holidays through the year so there will always be something coming up to look forwards to.
      I am sure you have some white and red wool at home to make H a martenitsa while you are snowed in!! x


  2. What a lovely tradition! Don’t those trees all look lovely – here in the Uk everything is bare, would be nice to adorn a few with some yarn flowers! Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It always amazes me that there are so many different traditions around the world but clearly with a common root, or rather perhaps as different cultures evolved they ended up with similar ideas, perhaps because of they way the lived, or the way the world seemed to work…..
      The little island that I lived on before moving over to Bulgaria has a ‘fairy bridge’where you have to say hello to the fairies when you cross it (normally known as ‘themselves’rather than fairies) and above the bridge is a tree that people go to and tie ribbons, or photos or love letters or prayers for the fairies to help. So we have a festooned tree there all through the year, not just for March. Somewhere in the past all our traditions and beliefs have ended up following similar paths a little!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think you have a calling to some guerrilla yarnbombing! I’d love to see photos if you do 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Solidarity with Baba Marta | the skinflint philosopher

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