Living away from Greece it’s easy to forget some parts of life that I grew up with. As a teacher and a mother, I make it a priority to keep up with most of our Greek traditions. One of my favorites that has been a long lasting tradition in my family, is to make the Martis bracelet and wear it on the first day of March. The name of such a bracelet is derived from the Greek word Martios, which is the month of March. The 1st of March indicating the beginning of Spring in Greece, therefore a promise of warmer days and a burning sun, as my grandmother used to say.
“This bracelet that I make for you, will protect you from the burning March sun.” My grandmother said to my mother as she tied a double knot around her wrist. She chanted the words “Οπόχει κόρη ακριβή τον Μάρτη ήλιος μη τη δει”, denoting that her precious daughter will not be burned by the sun’s rays that are said to be strong this month of March.
I gather all the materials needed to make this bracelet for my son and all the children at school. All that is needed is string and maybe a blue “xandra” to protect them from the evil eye as well. It is customary that mothers and teachers make this bracelet for their children by using the colors red and white, symbolic of the red rosy cheeks and a white complexion, this bracelet will protect them.
Depending on which part of Greece you are from there are several variations of this ritual. The one I know that is close to my heart is that when the month ends, I cut off the bracelet and tie it to a tree branch for the swallows to come and make their nest. Others say that they wear the bracelet until Easter day, and burn it with the lamb that is roasted. This is said to be symbolic of Christ’s resurrection, where all our sins burn away and disappear.
What is the underlying idea when making the Marti bracelet after all? The story that is told to the children, while the love of our Greek traditions grow in their sacred hearts and souls.