Friday, March 4, 2011
Being an English teacher in a foreign country you get to celebrate a lot of holidays. Of course you get to celebrate or at least recognize the host country holidays, but you are also charged with the responsibility of appropriately representing your own holidays and how they are celebrated. Here in Romania, English teachers are well into the spring holiday run even though spring hasn't really come yet. This run seems to start with St. Valentines Day which is followed by its Romanian counterpart ten days later, Dragobete. Fast-forward just five days and it's Martisor already which is followed by 8 Martie, or Mothers Day, one week later. The first week of March begins and ends with a celebration focused on women so I simply consider it woman's week. During that week I am more consciously polite to any women that I may encounter. Finally, ten days after 8 martie we arrive at one of my personal favorites, St Patty's Day. At the moment we are in the midst of woman's week so I'd like to say a few words about my favorite Romanian holiday, Mărţişor.
Mărţişor is a celebration of the beginning of spring. The first flower that brings in the season is the snow drop and it is given as a small gift on the first of March. Leading up to Martisor you begin to see stands pop up throughout town offering small gifts. The basic, cheap, Martisor gift is a small ornament in a box with a red and white string tied to it. This ornament can be pinned to ones shirt. There are also more complex Martisor gifts ranging from bouquets of flowers to various display ornaments. Whatever the gift is, cheap or more elaborate, it is always well appreciated. Martisor gifts are always given to women. Sorry guys. Many students will bring them to their women teachers, or male colleagues will give them to their women colleagues. Martisor technically means "little March" or "Dear March".
Last year, when I first saw Martisoare, they actually did seem to signify spring. I remember it being a nice spring day when I was looking through the piles of brightly colored ornaments, picking out some for my colleagues. The snow drops were a welcomed sight and I remember that I started seeing Crocuses on the Parang footpath only a week or two later. After the Crocuses came the Narcissus, my favorite springtime flower. Spring evolved and became, by far, my favorite time of the year here in the Jiu Valley. This year has already turned out to be a bit different. It was a colder, longer winter already and an end is not yet in sight. I can't complain too much as this type of weather is expected here and still, in the cold, I manage to have some pretty great outdoor adventures. Last year we were lucky to have an easy, mild, short-lived winter. Either way, I am eagerly waiting spring. During this year's Martisor I spent a little less time scanning the tables of gifts. There was a warm fruit tea calling my name nearby.
Location: Petrosani, Romania