The Greeks have many customs dating back to the days of Ancient Greece. One of the many is the “Marti” bracelet or “Martaki”. This Ancient Greek custom marks the beginning of Spring. The “Marti” (March in English), is a custom that is also known in other Balkan countries like Bulgaria. The Bulgarians call it a “Martinitsa”. The name is derived from the Greek word for the month of March, “Martios”!
On March 1st, it is Greek tradition, especially for children, to wear a bracelet made of twisted red and white thread. The red symbolizes rosy cheeks and the white a fair complexion. Some believe the white symbolizes purity, and the red colour represents life and passion. Greeks of all ages wear the bracelet for the entire month of March.
After some Greeks take off the bracelet, they hang it in a fruit tree, so the tree will remain healthy and produce many fruits. However, the custom varies throughout different regions in Greece. In certain regions you can remove the bracelet when you see a swallow returning for spring, so the bird can use the thread to build its nest. Others wait until Greek Orthodox Easter and throw the “Marti” into the ashes of the souvla fire after roasting the lamb on Pascha.
The 1st of March also indicates the beginning of Spring in Greece, and the hope for warmer days soaked with lots of sun. Therefore, especially for young children, wearing the Marti bracelet also means you are protected from a sun burn.