Traditions around the world: Romanian Martisor

The first memory I have about the “Martisor” is from a very young age, 4 years old maybe. I remember my grandmother giving me this beautiful tiny glass squirrel, brown, with a white nose and two small round black bubbles as eyes. It was tied with a white and red string, and the fascinating thing about it was that you couldn’t wear it on your blouse because it had no needle, same as the other “Martisoare”. It was like a precious toy. I remember how proud I was of it and how special that was for me. Until, obliviously, I lost it.

Later, in school, there used to be competitions between girls, of who gets the most “Martisoare” from boys. Popular girls always went back home with their backpacks full.

snur-martisor“Martisor” is a tradition that Romanians celebrate every year on the 1st of March. In each area of the country this custom changes slightly, so I am going to tell you about how I know it and how I celebrated it all my life.

The Legend says that this tradition dates from over 2000 years ago, when the Dacians were living on the territory of now Romania. Back then, 1st of March was the beginning of the year in the old Roman calendar and March (Martie – in Romanian) was dedicated to God Mars, the protector of marriage. On this day men were celebrating their wives by offering them gifts and women were wearing around their necks a coin tied with a bi-color string, red and white, to be beautiful, healthy and lucky the whole year ahead.

The white string represents the cold of winter, while the red string represents the warmth of spring and braided together they represent the conjunction of the contraries.

In our days, the coin has been changed with different feminine symbols like ladybirds, flowers, butterflies, but also with symbols of luck, like horseshoes or chimney sweepers (which in the Romanian tradition are lucky). They are all tied with the red and white string.

Every 1st of March boys and men buy this symbol of spring and offer it to the girls and women in their lives, as a symbol of their love and respect. Modern men also accompany it with flowers, especially bouquets of snowdrops, hyacinths or freesias. Women have to wear the “Martisor” on their chest and after 9 days, they tie it up to a flower in a garden or to the branch of a tree. It is said that by doing so, the women will blossom this year the same way as the flower or the branch will.

batrinaThere are 9 days of “Martisor” and they are connected to the Legend of Baba Dochia, a Romanian mythological character – an old lady that lived in the mountains (Baba). She had a son, named Dragobete, that irremediably fell in love with a young and beautiful girl, that he married. Baba Dochia didn’t agree with this marriage so one day she sent the girl to the river to wash a black ball of yarn. She told her not to come back until the ball of yarn is white. The girl took the ball of yarn and went to the river but no matter how much she tried to wash it, the color was still black. Her hands were frozen and bloody.

Impressed by the pain the girl was going through, Jesus Christ appeared in her way and gave her a red flower, telling her to wash the yarn with it. She thanked him, took the flower and put it in the water. To her surprise, the yarn immediately changed color and became white.Β  She happily went back home and told Baba Dochia what happened.

After hearing about the flower, Baba Dochia thought that spring has come. Where else would the girl have a flower from? She took her nine sheepskin coats and took her sheep to the mountains. The weather become warmer and warmer, so every day, Baba Dochia threw away one of her coats, until there was none left. And in that day, the weather changed and the cold came back. Baba Dochia froze, together with her sheep and transformed into stone.

In our days, girls choose one of the first nine days of March as their “Baba”. The tradition says that the year will go on the same as their chosen day will, if it’s sunny it’s going to be a good year. If it’s not, it won’t be such a good year. But of course, these are all traditions.

Do you have a spring tradition in your country? I would love to hear all about it!

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Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.


  1. so interesting. I love learning about other cultures and traditions. One of my best friends is from Romania and I will definitely share this with her.

  2. I don’t think we have any traditions like the Romanian Martisor, per say! BUT I do know that the moment it starts to warm up some in the Spring that we all head to the restaurants to bombard their patios and order lots of beer. Does that count? πŸ™‚

  3. This is my first time to learn about this tradition and it is really fascinating. I don’t know if we got spring tradition in my country but we got so many festivals during spring
    thanks for sharing
    I learned somethin new today!

  4. I absolute love to get to know about other cultures. This is such a cute tradition! Please keep sharing this type of posts, they’re so interesting!

  5. Great to hear about your tradition in your country. We have “midsommar” it stands for mid-summer. It’s not with spring but in the middle of the summer when its the longest brightest day in Sweden.

    1. I remember Midsommar, I was in Stockholm 2 years ago for my birthday and I remember going to Skansen and enjoying the beautiful celebrations, the flower crowns (mine got eaten by the moose at Skansen zoo, he stole it from my head) and the jolly atmosphere.

  6. Interesting! We don’t have a spring tradition in the Philippines because we only have two seasons! We do have stories about coming rains πŸ™‚

  7. India also has so many stories and traditions. One such weird tradition that I can remember is that in North India, the groom’s shoes are hidden by the bride’s sisters during the wedding and he has to but them back from the bride’s side. However, the whole process is great fun :).

    1. Haha, that is very funny! In Romania the bride is stolen at some point during the wedding, when the groom doesn’t pay attention, and he needs to “buy” her back, usually with a bottle of whiskey. πŸ™‚

  8. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing this lovely tradition! Never heard of it before πŸ™‚ I can’t think of any similar traditions we have in my country (Switzerland) – apart from the Carnival every February / March – but nothing really precise to welcome Spring. At least I think so…

  9. First time hearing about this so thank you for sharing! That’s really interesting, I love that you shared it with everyone πŸ™‚

  10. I live in India and probably you would be knowing that there is a surfeit of traditions and rituals here. I personally do not like the fact that the conventions have cultivated so many superfluous superstitions.
    People here impel religion into everything, which I do not like.

  11. I have heard about this tradition over the past two weeks. Prior to this I had not known about it but I think it is a great tradition that can be adopted by anyone

    1. Indeed, it’s a fun way to start spring and you can wear anything really as a “Martisor”, so any brooch would do πŸ™‚

  12. This was so interesting. i live very close to Romania (well, it’s practically our neighbor, i’m from Serbia) but i’ve never heard of it. We have loads of customs but in city we don’t celebrate them that much :/

    1. I have a friend in Bosnia that does celebrate it. I guess it’s spread in different regions on Easter Europe but not everywhere. πŸ™‚

  13. I love cultural stories, and I love this story! This is a lovely tradition, thanks for sharing it. I don’t have spring tradition in my origin country (Indonesia) but we do have many of myth, legends, and tradition based on them.

  14. I loved this post! I have never heard of this tradition before but I think it’s lovely. I love the folklore and mythology surrounding it too. I will be checking out your other posts too.

  15. Wow. I have never heard of this tradition before. It sounds like a fun way to celebrate. Do you do this every year with your family?

    1. Everybody does it, every year. Literally everybody. The “Martisor” sellers start to sell them at mid February and they occupy all the sidewalks in the main areas of the cities. It’s madness πŸ™‚

  16. Sounds so cool! I often stay in France and as far as traditions go, they have a lot. They’re wonderful, little festivals, food celebrations, and the best markets ever. I wish England had more of that!

    1. I do like out little weekend market from the High Street. And I’ve been to Salisbury to a nice food market. In my little town we have a lot of events in summer, like folk festivals, motorbike shows, fireworks displays, etc.

  17. Like others, I have not heard of this tradition before. In Minnesota, we have one similar but it is May first. Mayday baskets are handed out to friends, family, and even strangers. It makes the beginning of spring (I believe).

  18. As a former American baseball player, for years my main spring tradition was spring training in preparation for the upcoming season. It’s always wonderful to hear about the traditions of other cultures and I thank you for sharing.

  19. How fascinating especially that the traditions are different for both men and women. I think it is important to seek out knowledge about other cultures particularly if you are visiting the country.

  20. This is new to me. I have been in Romania before, but I think it would be interesting to come on March 1st next year. Keep it up. Hope to read more about the traditions of Eastern European countries.

    1. You will learn a lot about our traditions if you will visit next 1st of March. We have cultural fairs with traditional foods and the cities are all “dressed” in the red and white of the Martisor sellers.

  21. What a neat tradition. I read a Russian story a while back— winter garden, maybe? — that talked a little about the little charms in the gardens. Thanks for sharing’

    1. I don’t know, we do not have traditions related to the charms in the gardens. We and Russia don’t have much in common, just beautiful girls. πŸ™‚

  22. Fantastic article to start the day with . Thanks for sharing this with us , brilliant ! So many new things to get to know about , very entertainig !
    Best wishes Klaudia from Klaudia’s Corner

  23. Great blog post, it has given me a lot to think about and look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

  24. I had never heard of Montisor before. Thank you for sharing your memory with me and teaching me about a tradition that I had no dea existed!

  25. This is very cool! When I was little we would trade snap bracelets or other little things. In Spring we like to start our garden and celebrate Easter. Thanks for the informative post!

  26. Sounds like something maybe we should lookup for school one day. I love hearing about different traditions. Thanks for sharing!

  27. I don’t think that we have any traditions here in the Spring. This one was really interesting. I have never heard of it before but I love when a tradition is passed on through the generations. It makes me feel so connected to those before us!

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