If you’re in Romania during the end of February, you’ll notice stands popping up all over selling little red-and-white pieces of jewelry for 1 leu (35 cents). They’re on the roadsides, in the malls, on the subways… everywhere! And they are most definitely not candy canes.
And, if you’re American, you’re probably asking yourself, “What on earth is going on here?!?!” Because the only thing going on in February in America is the Superbowl and a whole lot of snow. (Okay, so I guess we do have President’s Day and Valentine’s Day as well.)
Say “hello” to Mărțișor, a traditional Romanian celebration that goes all the way back to the ancient Roman or even the Dacian (pre-Roman) people of the Carpathian region. It has its roots as a fertility festival, the rebirth of nature, and a celebration of spring. Celebrants would participate by giving and receiving mărțișoare (the small, red-and-white, pieces of jewelry). In ancient times (and yet today in some rural areas) these trinkets were believed to have magical properties, guaranteeing the wearer of a good, blessed, and fertile future. Today, for most people they’re simply a fun way to show you value someone’s friendship.