Bulgarian Spring Holidays

From June 2000 – June 2002 I had the opportunity to live and work in Bulgaria as a US Peace Corps Volunteer. During my 2 years in Bulgaria, I had the opportunity to learn about the culture, people as well as unique traditions and holidays of this country. While we may not notice the change in temperatures, here in Northern California, as much as other parts of the US or world, we welcome spring as a time of growth and rejuvenation.

March 1st – Baba Marta Day

  • Baba Marta (Grandma March) is known in folklore as a feisty old woman – and when she smiles, the sun comes out during the winter months. On this day, it is common for Bulgarians to give each other martenitsa (red and white yarn in the form of a bracelet or two dolls) and wish each other Chestita Baba Marta (Female) or Chestit Baba Marta (Male). The martenitsa can be worn or kept  until you see a stork, swallow or blossoming tree – then you are to placate it on a tree. This signifies the coming of Spring and it is quite common at the end of March to see trees adorned with red and white yarn. 

March 3rd – Liberation Day

  • This day commemorations the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire. The re-establishment of Bulgaria’s statehood during the Russo-Turkish War which occured in 1877-1878. In Bulgaria, there are 400 preserved monuments and on this day, flowers, wreaths, and notes are placed at the monuments in memory of the Russians soldiers who died fighting for the liberation of Bulgaria. 

March 8th – International Women’s Day

  • International Women’s Day defines this day as, “…a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women”. Growing up in California and prior to living in Bulgaria, I do not remember this holiday being celebrated. It is common for men in Bulgaria to give women a single rose on this day, to signify their support of gender equality. 

What special holidays does your country celebrate during this time of year? In learning about the traditions and holidays celebrated in Bulgaria throughout the year, it made me think of my own traditions and holidays that I grew up celebrating, and how I can share with others about them. 

Author: Suzanne Pendergrass

Assistant Director, International Student and Scholar Services

International Student and Scholar Services, SJSU

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