Make a Martenitsa

Edited by Zornitsa Bukovska, Eng, Lynn, Maria Quinney


An ancient legend tells a story about a Bulgarian ornament that symbolizes the coming of the spring, and it has been celebrated as one of the country's national holidays for more than 1000 years. Long ago, the sister of the Bulgarian king Khan Asparuh-Huba had been held captive in another kingdom. One day she had got a notice from Asparuh that he had found a lovely land situated south of the Danube River where they could settle down. Excited by the good news, Huba had decided to escape from the prison and tried to find a way to this place, which today is known as Bulgaria. The girl had reached the river, but now she needed a ford to pass across. A falcon was sent by Huba's brother and she tied a thread of white yarn to one of his legs. Holding the other end of the thread, the girl let the bird fly. In the moment when the falcon found the ford, an enemy arrow had killed it and the yarn had been colored in red by its blood. Following the thread, Huba easily had reached the country that she and her brother called their "new home". The white and red thread had created the Martenitsa, which Bulgarians had started to wear from the day the story happened - March 1. According to the ritual, they continue to do it until they see a stork, a swallow or a budding tree. The entire holiday is called Baba Marta, where "Baba" means "grandmother" in English and "Marta" comes from "March". Martenitsas are usually made with red and white yarn knitted in the form of two small dolls called Pizho and Penda. Usually Pizho is the man and is white and Penda is the woman and is colored red.

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You can find Martenitsas in every store or bus stop now, but it's also very easy to create them on your own.


  • Red and white yarn.
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  • A few beads
  • Decorative ribbons
  • Scissors
  • Rectangular cardboard 5 x 9 cm - the same size as your dolls
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  1. 1
    Cut the white and red yarns into pieces about 30 cm long and make knots in one of the points they finish.
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  2. 2
    Twist them together (catch the white strand with your teeth, stretch the thread and start to twist the red strand following one direction)
    When the thread becomes tight enough you can stop and fold it so that the knot is placed in the middle. Now you have twisted the threads successfully!
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  3. 3
    You now have the simplest bracelet Martenitsa you can find on the market. If you have enough yarn, you can make more than hundreds from it. You can also make them thicker or easily import different stitches. All you have to do is to cut more strands, depending on the desired depth and length of the Martenitsa.
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  4. 4
    If you want to achieve a better result or make a more complex piece, you'll have to spend a little more time and effort on the creation of Pizho and Penda
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  5. 5
    Take the cardboard and start winding the red yarn to make Penda.
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  6. 6
    When you finish, draw the twisted thread on the downside of the cardboard and tie it without cutting the thread that leaves
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  7. 7
    Take the scissors again, and cut the winded yarn at the bottom; at the same time, bend it in the place where it's tied with the twisted thread so that the knot is placed in the middle.
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  8. 8
    Take a longer thread and twist it to make the neck of the doll, and make another knot and mix the ends of the neck with the other threads.
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  9. 9
    Separate the down part of Penda in two equal parts and a little piece of red yarn put between them.
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  10. 10
    Now you can take a piece of white yarn and dress Penda in a way you prefer.
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  11. 11
    To form the Penda's hands, mix the upper ends with another red thread and tie them.
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  12. 12
    In the points where the ends are tied, you can use contrast colors to make the dolls more impressive.
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  13. 13
    Use the scissors to even out Penda's skirt.
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  14. 14
    Repeat the same procedure to make Pizho, using the other color and adding the red element to his feet.
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Baba Marta 723.jpg
  • The popular practice of wearing a Martenitsa hides a deep symbolism. The entire adornment expresses the sending of the winter, and at the same time Bulgarians welcome the upcoming spring. They leave behind the cold days of misery and pray for health, love, happiness and luck.
  • With the wearing of Martenitsa, people ask Baba Marta for mercy; they hope she'll chase away the bad days from their life, will bring them only unforgettable happy moments and will unite their families.
  • The power of Martenitsa is kept in the red color, which has magical qualities that chase away the evil spirits and demons, and prevents diseases. The white color symbolizes purity, and both represent the balance between the red and white, love and hate, power and weakness, etc.
  • You can wear the Martenitsa on your hand instead of as a bracelet, or pin it somewhere on your clothes (usually on the side of the heart) or around your neck. AT the end of the day you can have more than 20 Martenitsas on both your right and left hands.
  • Everybody can wear Martenitsa, especially the young children who often decorate even their dogs and cats with the yarn dolls.
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  • If you're a believer you'll have to watch for some tips because if you don't consider them, the magical powers of Martenitsa could turn and have the opposite effects.
  • You'll never wear a Martenitsa made by yourself - it has to be gifted! If you hang it on your own, you risk the attracting of demons and unhappiness in your house.
  • Do not exchange Martenitsas before March 1. According to the ritual, the best time for these gifts is in the morning when you get up or when you go to work or school.
  • Always buy or make more than 50 Martenitsas - you never know who you'll meet!
  • Advice: When you meet a man somewhere along the street, stop smile at him and give him a Martenitsa - this is a good action, which later will be gifted as well.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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Article Info

Categories : Arts & Crafts | Holidays & Traditions

Recent edits by: Lynn, Eng, Zornitsa Bukovska

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