“Mărțișor” – a story of Romanian tradition


If you have any Romanian friends, especially on social media, then you may have noticed a trend in these past few days. And in case you are wondering what’s up with that, I am here to tell you all about it. For those of you who are not familiar with this, every year on the 1st of March, Romanians celebrate the coming of Spring. And we do this with a wonderful tradition of presenting each other with a small token known as martisor (“mărțișor” spelled in Romanian).

What exactly is a “mărțișor”?

Let me start by explaining the name a little. The term of “mărțișor” comes from the old folk name that Romanians had for the month of March. In Romanian, this month is known as “Martie”. And in the old days, people used to also call it “marț”, which would literally translate as “little march”. So, we could say that it was just a diminutive term. To be honest, I don’t know if we still use that term, maybe in the rural parts, but not in the cities.

So this term evolved and became the “mărțișor” we all know and use today. But here’s the catch. This term actually only refers to the red and white string that is tied to different objects and symbols nowadays. So, basically, you could give someone only the string and it would be considered as a “mărțișor”. Of course, today it has evolved and it gets tied to many different types of handmade objects, symbols, and products. But the same idea remains in place, they have to have that specific string in order to deserve the specific term.

But why do we do it?

So, this is an old custom. And people used to give this string to one another as a symbol of the coming spring and kind of a good luck charm. Whoever would receive this symbol was believed to have a healthy and strong year to come. It was given and worn by both men and women and they used to wear it until the end of the month. After that, they would tie the string to a fruit tree branch. In other regions, there was also the tradition of wearing a coin tied to the string around your neck. At the end of the month, people would spend that coin on red wine and sweet cheese.

Today, this tradition has evolved a bit, along with its significance. Even though the tradition is still the same, some things have changed. It is now custom that especially men would give women this “mărțișor“. Women still give them as well but only to other women such as friends and family members. You can still buy just the string to give away. But there are so many more options today to give along with this symbol. From small handmade tokens and jewelry to flowers, sweets, and even bigger presence. If you want to do something really special for this tradition, you just have to find something in red and white and you can pass the test. It has taken a bit away from the original tradition, but you can still find beautiful and creative products to offer.

Romanian pride

I have noticed in the past few years that Romanians have started taking more and more pride in who they are. We are slowly but surely taking back and bringing forward our traditions. And this can easily be observed in the product market. More and more Romanian artists are discovering the pride and beauty of old and forgotten traditions. And we are starting to educate not only ourselves but other nations as well about this. We are bringing forward national clothes, patterns, symbols and anything that show you what and who we are.

And I have to say that I love this. I love taking pride in my country and my traditions and I hope we continue down this path. So why have I mentioned this? Because this trend has also affected the “mărțișoare” (plural for mărțișor) market. And I was delighted to see that, this year, these were some of the most beautiful that I received.

Below you will find a small gallery containing just a few of the ones that I personally got. From my significant other, sister, and coworkers, here are some of the most beautiful examples of Romanian tradition:






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