The beginning of March always makes me look back to our time in Romania, because this is the time when people give each other a ‘mărțișor’ (you say mur -tsi – shor). It’s like a little brooch, decorated with red and white thread and tied in a bow. It’s given to women by family and loved ones and is worn for about 2 weeks, and includes, rather neatly, worldwide Women’s Day.
Many are made in the winter in the villages, and some of them are rather beautiful. I’ve even kept my favourite one! I remember my first day teaching in the university of Alba Iulia was on International Women’s Day, so we didn’t do any work – I was hauled off to the refectory for a lovely meal, followed by traditional dancing. Now that’s what I call knowing your priorities.
The tradition goes back at least 2,000 years, and is based on an old folk story. The sun wanted to join in the fun that humans were having, so he came to earth and was captured by an ogre. As a result the sun stopped shining, the rivers stopped running, and all was dark and gloomy. Finally a brave warrior was found to fight the ogre, and he freed the sun who of course started shining again. However, the warrior died in the attempt and stained the white snow with his red blood – hence the red and white stripes.
Rather a charming story, and one that is appropriate for very early spring, when the sun starts to shine a bit more often – well, it should do, anyway!