SOFIA, Mar. 1 (Xinhua) -- All Bulgarians celebrated Sunday a centuries-old tradition -- exchanging "martenitsas," which are red-and-white interwoven strings, on the day of Baba Marta and the shining sun spelled nice, and warm weather ahead, local press reported.
Eagerly followed on March 1 every single year, the tradition of giving your friends "martenitsas" brings health and happiness during the year and is a reminder that spring is near.
Baba Marta (Grandma March) is a feisty lady who always seems to be grudging at her two brothers, and the sun only comes out when she smiles. As folklore often goes, there are different versions of the Baba Marta tale. One says that on that day she does her pre-spring cleaning and shakes her mattress for the last time before the next winter -- all the feathers that come out of it pour on Earth like snow -- the last snow of the year.
The "martenitsa" tradition is thought to have been inspired by Bulgaria's first Khan Asparuh, who sent a white string to his wife to tell her he survived a battle.
People are supposed to take off their "martenitsas" when they see the first signs that spring has already come -- a blooming tree, a stork, or a sparrow.
When the "martenitsa" is taken off some tie it to a tree - one that they'd like to be especially fruitful. Others place it under a rock and based on what they find there the next morning guess what kind of a year this one would be.
The "martenitsa" now comes in all shapes and sizes -- from Guiness-worth giant building packages to two tiny simple strings gently placed on a newborn's arm. Children usually compete who will get the most and often walk around more ornate than a Christmas tree. However, it always bears the same meaning -- a lucky charm against the evil spirits of the world, a token for health and a sign of appreciation.