Mărţişor (Romanian pronunciation: [mərt͡siˈʃor]) is the traditional celebration of the beginning of the spring (and until 1701 of the New Year) in Romania, Moldova, on the 1st of March. The day’s name is the diminutive of March (in Romanian Martie), and thus means something like “little” or “dear March”. Nowadays, men offer women a talisman object also called Mărţişor, consisting of a jewel or a small decoration like a flower, an animal or a heart, tied to a red and white string. However, giving a little nickel tied to a red and white string is an old custom and was originally designated for both men and women. It was believed that the one who wears the red and white string will be powerful and healthy for the year to come. The decoration is a symbol of the coming spring. A woman wears it pinned to her blouse on this day and up to two weeks after. Occasionally, women also give such gifts to men. In some parts of Romania such as Moldova or Bukovina the symbol of spring was a gold or silver medal which was worn around the neck. After wearing the coin for twelve days, they bought sweet cheese with the medal, because it was believed that their faces would remain beautiful and white the entire year.
Bulgarians also have a similar but not identical holiday on March 1, called “Martenitsa“. If and how these two holidays are related is still a matter of debate between ethnologists.
Mărţişor tradition is very old, and, according to the archaeological research, it is traced more than 8 000 years ago Some of the ethnologists consider Mărţişor to have a Roman origin, and some other consider it to have a Daco-Thracian origin.
In ancient Rome, New Year’s Eve was celebrated on the 1st of March (‘Martius’), month which was called in the honour of the god Mars. Mars was not only the god of war but also the god of agriculture, which leads to nature rebirth. So, red and white colours of Mărţişor may be explained as colours of war and peace.
The Thracians also used to celebrate the New Year’s Eve on the first day of March, month which took the name of the god Marsyas Silen, the inventor of the pipe (fluier, traditional musical instrument), whose cult was related to the land and vegetation. The spring celebrations, of flowers and nature fertility, were consecrated to him. So, the New Year celebrated on the first day of March is the rebirth of nature. In the time of the Dacians, the spring symbols were confectioned during the winter and worn only after 1st of March. At that time, Mărţişoarele were made of small river pebbles, coloured in alb and red, stringed on a thread and worn around the neck. According to other sources, the Mărţişors were made of coins hanged on thin wool threads, coloured in black and white. The type of the coin (gold, silver, or bronze) used to indicate the social statute. The Mărţişors were worn to bring good luck and also good weather. Those amulets were considered to bring fertility, beauty and to protect against sunburn. They were worn until the trees started to bloom, ad then they were hanged on their branches.
In some territories, Daco-Romanians still celebrate the Agrarian New Year in spring. The days at the beginning of March (Martie, in Romanian) are considered days of a new beginning. So, before the 1st of March, especially women use to chose one day from the first 9; judging by how the weather is on the chosen day, they know how the new year will be for them. In some places, young men find out, in a similar way, how their wives are going to be. The days at the beginning of March are called Baba Dochia’s Days, Baba Dochia being an image of the Great Earth Goddess.