Legend of Martenitsa

Legend of Martenitsa

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Just before the end of his life, the ruler of the Bulgars, Khan Kubrat, called his sons and ordered them never to separate from each other, to be always together and remain strong, so that their enemies would not attack and enslave them. Soon the Khan passed away. Then the Khazars, one of his strong enemies, attacked the Bulgars and captured Kubrat’s daughter, Huba. Their leader, Khan Ashina, forced the sons of Kubrat to proclaim him as their new leader, and in exchange he would set their sister free and leave their lands. This was a huge challenge to Kubrats’ sons.

The eldest one, Bayan, accepted the Khazar domination and stayed with his sister. The other sons did not listen to the advice of their father to remain united and separated to seek a free land for their tribes. One of the brothers headed North and the others – Asparuh, Kuber and Altsek – went to the South. Before separating, the brothers secretly agreed with Huba and Bayan to stay with Khan Ashina until one of them finds a free land. Then the one who has found a land and has created a new Bulgarian state would send them a bird tied with a golden thread on its foot as a sign to escape. So the brothers departed and left Huba and Bayan in the hands of the evil Ashina.

Not long after that, a dove with a golden thread on its foot came to Huba, sent by Asparuh. As they planned it before, Huba and Bayan escaped from Ashina and reached the Danube. They had no idea how to cross the river. Bayan picked up a white thread and Huba tied it to the dove’s leg. She wanted to tell their brother, Asparuh, that they were already nearby. But just before they let the bird fly, the persecutors sent by the Khazars started shooting at them. Bayan was injured by an arrow and the initial part of the thread he held, was painted red from his blood. At that moment, Asparuh appeared with his soldiers on the other shore of the river. He was waiting for his brother Bayan and his sister Huba. The Khazars, knowing the strength of the Bulgarian weapons, got frightened and ran away.

Asparuh helped his brother and sister to cross the river and took them to his soldiers. He took the thread from Bayan and tied both – white and red end together. Asparuh stood in front of his troops and confessed that they did not listen to their father’s advice and paid the price of their separation with their blood. He gave a small piece of this sacred thread to each one of his soldiers and ordered them never to cut it as this gory thread will always connect Bulgarians and remind them of the glorious Bulgaria and their father’s wish to be united. 

This happened on the first of March. This is why the symbol was named Martenitsa as “март” is the bulgarian word for March and Martenitsa literally means “something coming in March”. 

From this day after each Bulgarian ties on their hand a  red-white thread when March comes, as a reminder of this historical day. Martenitsa is a symbol of wealth, joy and prosperity. 

Question: Who’s blood colored the golden thread?

  • Bayan
  • The dove
  • Huba

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