Sunday, February 28, 2010

Baba Marta and Springtime in Bulgaria

March 1st is the official start of springtime in Bulgaria. It is when Baba Marta (Grandmother Martha) visits the land and everybody hopes that winter has been banished.

To appease her, people wear red and white threads (or intertwined pieces of yarn) for good luck and health in the coming year. Here is an explanation of the custom and a bit of the story behind it:

These charms or amulets can be worn in a number of forms: as bracelets, necklaces, or pinned onto the clothing and they are worn for good luck and prosperity during the coming year.

I was so captivated by this Bulgarian folk craft that I bought two skeins of yarn, one red and one white, and decided to create my own Martenitsa.

I was a little rushed when I made them. The bracelets didn't look too bad, but the tassle one needed some work.

Since I live in a multi-cultural household and am a citizen of the world, their place of honor was in front of the Puerto Rico mirror, next to my daughter Marty's Chinese good luck charm (notice the similarity)? that I picked up in Chinatown a few years ago. The Martenitsa on the right is traditional, with Pijo and Penda.

I have one on my key ring and so far I haven't lost my keys and have only been in one car accident, which was a fender bender. Baba Marta must like me!

Here's a video from the Universe of YouTube, showing the different types of martenitsi, how they're made, and how they're worn accompanied by music from the group Leb i Vino (Bread and Wine).

Saturday, February 27, 2010


There's a side of me that very few see
What do people know about me?
I am a mystery.
No one understands me-really.
Because I'm different
My life seems normal
To the people in the community
I have a husband, kids,
Work and grocery shop, weekly.
Little do they know I'm an alien
From the Planet Bulgaria
And that I dance rachenitsa
On Friday nights.

copyright K.D. Brown March 2009

Alien means different, foreign and sometimes strange.  I am a reincarnated Bulgarian peasant, born in New York City and raised in a Puerto Rican family.  My upbringing was bilingual and bicultural, and I have been to Puerto Rico. Although my genetic roots are there, and I like their music (especially reggaeton), I never had a burning desire to go back. I always felt out of step (pardon the pun) with most of my relatives and have had the urge to travel since I was young. 

When I was young we didn't have the Internet, although I owned a shortwave radio, and listened to the foreign language broadcasts on it.  Everyone thought I was weird.  There was something I was searching for on that shortwave radio, but I didn't know what it was.  What I was looking for took many years to find.

I always knew I was different, and found myself when I took up Balkan dance in the 1980's.  The purpose of this blog (a.k.a. mission statement) is to entertain and inform about Balkan, and especially Bulgarian folklore, for which I have a deep admiration.

Although I've traveled extensively in Europe and the United States, I've never been to Bulgaria.  I lived in Germany four years back in the 1970's, and my husband was in the military, and the line of work he was in would have made it extremely difficult to travel to an Eastern bloc country.

Bulgaria is alien to most Americans and it's a place they know little about.  One day I will go and find out the mystery of this country for myself.

In the meantime there's always the Internet.