Greek Mum Correspondent: Chrysoula Koutsouri, Munich (apomamasemama.com)
A Wednesday like all the other Wednesdays at the greek school of Vienna. Only it is not any Wednesday. It is Wednesday, March the first. I’ve completely forgotten about it. Till the moment I see the children rushing out of the class, showing their hands with enthusiasm. A little bracelet made of white and red threads, hangs from their little hands. “Do you know what is it called?” I ask my son. “Martis of course,” he answers full of laughter.
“Martis” is a very old Balcan custom. When you see someone wearing it, this automatically means that he comes from our own little corner of Europe (or he has a good friend from there). It is believed to have originated in ancient Greece, probably in the Eleusinian Mysteries where the initiates wore a scarlet ribbon, named “Kroki”, on their right hand and their left foot. In our popular tradition, people use to wear on their hands a bracelet, made of white and red threads. It is said that those who wear the “Marti”, in particular children, are protected from the spring sun. Hence the popular saying: “He who has a precious daughter, should not let sun in March see her”. At the end of the month, people tend to leave their bracelet on tree branches, in order to help swallows to build their nest.
Therefore, “Martis” is not just a bracelet on our children’s hands. It is a beautiful tradition that gives us the opportunity to talk to them about the spring, the months, the swallows, Greece’s temperate climate and our tradition. Especially for children who grow up in another country, it helps them getting to know our cultural heritage and to build their identity as members of the greek nation. So, if you still do not wear any “Marti”, it is a good chance this year to teach your children this custom. You can easily prepare a home-made one, twisting together a white and a red string and tying the two ends together. If you are good with arts and crafts, you can even make elaborated knitted bracelets – you can find online a lot of videos for inspiration. Allow your children to participate in the process. They will definitely enjoy it, they will feel responsible and will have the opportunity to develop their creativity.
We already wear one. And we hope that this year’s March will not be as “angry” with us as the last year’s one… even if we have to pay for it with a little sun burn.