Junior pupils celebrate Barba Marta

Today (Wednesday 1 March) Year 2 and 4 pupils learnt about Bulgarian culture as they celebrated Baba Marta (or Grandma March). The day relates to the welcoming of the Spring – bringing joy and new hope. Our Bulgarian students Minna and Mihail brought in gifts for their classes and shared the story of this ancient tradition.

In Bulgarian folklore Baba Marta is a grumpy old woman who changes her mood very rapidly, and it reflects in the changeable weather in March – when she is smiling the weather is warm and sunny, but when she is angry the cold stays for longer and it may even snow!

As is tradition, Minna and Mihail exchanged ‘Martenitsa’ with each other, pupils and staff, as well as teaching them how to say ‘Chestita Baba Marta!’ meaning ‘Happy Grandma March’.

The Martenitsa is usually two small wool dolls – Pizho and Penda. Made up of twined red and white threads, Pizho is the male doll in white; representing strength purity and happiness, and Penda is the female doll in red; associated with health, conception and fertility. These were worn by Minna and Mihail, as well as their form tutors. As the Martenitsa can come in a variation of forms, each pupil received a bracelet to wish them great health, good luck and happiness.

The children learnt that when someone gives you a Martenitsa you should wear it until you see a stork, or a fruit tree in blossom for the first time that Spring. After that you can tie it on a blossoming tree. The Martenitsa is said to hold magical powers to protect you from ill fortune, diseases and the evil eye.

Thank you Minna and Mihail for sharing your traditions with us, once again demonstrating the breadth of the St John’s College community.

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