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Celebrating Martis tradition

Celebrating Martis tradition

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Last Updated on August 2, 2022 by Celeste.

If you have kids in Greece, you may have been celebrating the Martis tradition. A ritual to honor spring and remind ourselves of the summer ahead.

celebrating martis tradition

Celebrating Martis tradition

Some years ago, my daughter came home from nursery and showed me a red and white string bracelet. She told me that we could not take it off her wrist until the end of March. And we should then ‘hang it in our rose bush for the birds’. It was the first time that I heard about the Greek tradition of the Martis and I immediately loved this Greek custom.  We have been making Martis bracelets each year since, and the children also do it at school. It is a fun tradition that we look much forward too.

celebrating martis tradition

Ancient Greek tradition

Depending on the region in Greece, there are several variations of this tradition. But the Martis goes back to an ancient annual rite celebrating and welcoming the spring. Adults and children would wear red and white bracelets.  They are made on the last day of February and worn from the first of March until 31 March or on Holy Saturday (depending on the region) There are several explanations for its colors. The general consensus seems to be that the colors represent ‘purity’ (white) and ‘life’ and ‘passion’ (red). 

I have read of some places in Greece where the colors symbolize the blood of Christ. Other parts connect the white and red to the skin color of an upper-class woman’s face and the sun-burned woman working in the fields. In ancient times, people believed that the bracelet protected the person who was wearing it from diseases and against the strong spring sun. And even now, it is considered a talisman that keeps away the sun, the evil eye, sickness, and misfortune.

The Balkan tradition of Spring

Martis or Martia is derived from the Greek word ‘Martios’, which is the month of March. Whilst researching the subject I found that the pre-Christian Tradition of the Martis is common in other Balkan countries and the Middle East. In Bulgaria, it is called ‘Martenitsa’ and it is a small piece of adornment, made of white and red yarn and usually in the form of two dolls, a male and a female. Martenitsi are worn on March 1 until the wearer first sees a stork, swallow or blossoming tree or until late March. As it is in Greece, the tradition is related to welcoming the spring.

At the end of March, the bracelets are cut off of the wrists. In most parts of Greece, the children hang their bracelets in a rose bush so the swallows can come and take them to make their nests. When the first swallow appears spring has started. Another tradition says that once the person wearing the bracelet sees the first blossoming tree of the spring, they tie the Martis around the tree to keep it healthy and to have a good harvest.

celebrating martis tradition

Celebrating Martis tradition: How to make your own

When the children make the Martis, it is typically a simple braid of two strings. You will need a red thread, a white thread, some tape and scissors. 

Cut 2 strands of white thread, about 60cm each. The same for the red thread. Gather the ends of your strings together. Treating them as a single strand, coil them into a loop, then pull the ends through the loop. This will make the knot. Tape the string above the knot to a flat surface, such as a table or board, and start the braid. Maintain a consistent tension. Give the strings a gentle tug to tighten the strings as you braid. 

celebrating martis tradition

Fasten the braid end into a knot. Coil the braid end into a loop, then pull the tails through the loop. Tug on the tails to tighten the knot. Cut off leftover threads and remove the tape from the start of the braid. Wrap the braid around your wrist and tie the ends together into a double-knot. If you are creative, you can add small beads or other decorations. Pictured below is our hand made Martis bracelet.

celebrating martis tradition

Buy a Martis 

You can also buy your Martis bracelet. In Greece, many stores around the country sell them in spring. Some are more complex, some with extra decorations or charms. 

Greek Bracelet Gift Martis

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This set of 10 handmade bracelets is a great gift to share with your friends. They are made of natural wool or cotton and decorated with wooden beads.

If you are celebrating the Martis tradition in Greece this year,  I’d love to hear about it! Have a great new month or as they say in Greece ‘Kalo Mina!’

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View Comments (2)
  • You’ve reminded me a lot of good times from when I was a kid. My mother used to make these bracelets every year for me, my brother and my sister and we used to loved them. I think it’s time to do it again – maybe I’ll go and buy a bracelet for old times’ sake. Thank you! 🙂

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