Bulgarians give Martenitsa to each other on the 1st March and celebrate the wonderful tradition of Baba Marta. It is celebrated by Bulgarians all over the world and has its roots from the 1st Bulgarian Kingdom.
LEGEND OF THE MARTENITSA
THE LEGACY FROM FATHER TO SON
During the 7th century the Bulgars owned the land north of the River Danube and the Black sea. This independent state from other tribes was called Great Bulgaria. Their ruler was Khan Kubrat. He was a great and wise King.
Kubrat had five sons and a daughter. The ageing King before he died called his sons together to pass on his wisdom.
During the meeting he gave each one a large stick and asked them to break it in two halves. The brothers did this with relative ease. He then tied all the sticks in a bundle and again asked his sons to break them. This time however, even with all their young strength they could not break the sticks that were bound tightly.
He told them to always remember, by staying together and united they will be unbreakable. This was their father’s legacy.
THE SEARCH FOR NEW LANDS
After the death of Khan Kubrat in about AD 660. Great Bulgaria was attacked by the Khasari tribe. Huba, the sister of the brothers was taken hostage. The leader of the Khazari, Hun Ashina told the brothers that they must accept him as the new leader and that if the Bulgars leave the land, Huba would be spared.
The brothers forgetting their fathers legacy, decided to divide and search for new lands.
The eldest brother, Bayan,accepted Ashina as the new ruler and decided to stay with his sister. One brother headed North and the other three headed East ,South and West.
Before leaving the brothers had agreed that if one of them finds suitable new lands for the Bulgar people, a sign was to be sent to the captivated Huba and Bayan so they could make their escape and join them.
Khan Asparuh with his people headed South for the Danube.
FIRST KINGDOM OF BULGARIA
Legend tells that one day Huba saw a falcon with a golden thread around its leg. This was the sign from Asparuh. He had found new lands and now they had to make their escape.
Following the falcon Huba and Bayan fled on horseback as fast as they could with the Khazaris in close pursuit.
On reaching the banks of the River Danube they searched for a place to cross.
Having no idea how to reach the other side to join up with Asparuh. Bayan caught the falcon and tied a longer white thread next to the golden thread. He hoped the bird would find them a ford to cross the river to enable them to join their waiting brother.
The bird flew high into the air and they followed its flight along the banks of the Danube. Just as they saw a place to cross in safety, an arrow fired by a pursuing Khazari hit the bird.
Red blood coloured the white thread but the bird managed to reach Aspurah.
A great battle was fought on the Danubian plains but Khan Asparuh was victorious in defeating the invading Khazaris and saving his brother and his sister.
Khan Asparuh took the bloodied red and white thread from the falcons leg and tied it around the wrists of all his people.
The day was the 1st March 681 AD. The red and white threads were named Martenitsa.
King Asparuh united the people and was the first ruler in the land which we now know as Bulgaria. ‘Mart’ being the Bulgarian word for March.