Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chestita Baba Marta!

Chestita Baba Marta (Happy Grandmother March)!

Today Bulgarians celebrate Baba Marta. Baba Marta is a celebration of Spring. On Baba Marta friends and family give and receive Martinitsa (which are usually in the form of red and white bracelets) and wish each other good health and happiness. At the first signs of Spring (generally when the first blossoms appear on the trees), the martinitsa are tied to the branches of trees/bushes to symbolize new life.

This is one of my favorite Bulgarian traditions (one that we continue to celebrate in our home), and the second time that I have had the privilege to be here on March 1st.

During the morning visit the orphanage had a Baba Marta celebration. Baba Marta, of course, made an appearance and the children sang and recited poems. Martinitsa were handed out and traditional Bulgarian bread, dipped in honey, was enjoyed by all. There were also several groups (including a group of school children) who visited the orphanage and brought donations and yep, you guessed it, more martinitsa! By the time we left the orphanage that evening several of the children had collected martinitsa up to their elbows and they could not have been happier!


Benjamin and Thomas were fairly indifferent to the whole thing, but they did seem to enjoy the atmosphere and all of the people who came up to them to shake their hands and say hello.

Between visits I enjoyed a special treat. My facilitator, Martin, arranged for us to meet with one of his relatives (a very knowledgeable historian) for lunch and a tour of some of the city's historical sites.

First we toured the Regional History Museum. From there we went to The Cathedral Church of The Assumption. The interior of this church was absolutely breathtaking. Alexander (Martin's relative and my personal tour guide) has written a book about this church so it was really wonderful to hear the intricate details of this church's history.

Interior of the Church. The woodwork was the most incredible I have ever seen.

After we had finished at the church we visited the Ethnographical Museum which Alexander had personally helped to curate. I enjoyed this museum immensely. It painted a beautiful picture of what life was like for the people of this region (particularly in the early 20th century).

A room from the Ethnographical Museum depicting a room from a home in the Rodopi mountains.

After we had finished out tour we thanked Alexander, dropped him off at his house and returned to the orphanage for the afternoon visit. We were a few minutes late so Thomas was there waiting for me at the front door and he lit up like a Christmas tree when I walked in :-)

Both visits with the boys were wonderful and the best part is. . . . . . . I got LOTS of pictures and video! Somehow Martin talked the caregiver into sitting out in the hall rather than sitting in the room with us during the morning visit (there are large windows in the doors so I still had to be sneaky, but since everyone was running around wishing each other a happy Baba Marta, I was able to get some good footage)! Since I know pictures are what you REALLY want to see, I give you Thomas and Benjamin:


Thomas and Benjamin

Thomas, my mischief maker :-)

Benjamin, my snuggle bug

Benjamin really detests having the camera in his face and he sticks his tongue out EVERY time (believe it or not, his tongue thrust really isn't as bad as it seems in the pictures!)

"Look at me Mama!"

Benjamin (if you look close you can see the boys wearing their martinitsa)

Thomas (the little outfit they dressed him in was priceless)

"Get that camera out of my face!!!"


rosedel said...

Wow they are so cute! I don't think I've ever seen little boys in orphanages with that much hair and I love it! It is so wonderful that ethnic holidays are celebrated now in former Soviet countries. Next year you can make your own martinitsas and spread some culture.

Charissa said...

Valerie, I really enjoyed catching up on your latest adventure! I rarely get on the computer anymore but I am so glad I did tonight!

Grandma DD said...

I just love to see the photos of the little boys, my newest little grandkids -- who will be a little bit bigger before I get to see them -- and doing other cute things. Thank you for including so many photos. Love, Grandma DD