The Red and White Spring Ball

28th March 2008

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Friday 28 March 2008 19.00-21.00, 1 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PH (see map here) Entrance BY INVITATION ONLY. If you would like to take part to the event please write to us before 21 March at or call us on Tel. 020 7439 4052, ext. 108. Limited seating. First come, first served. Our events are open to all although, at times, we reserve the right to refuse admission The Embassy of Romania in the UK and the Romanian Cultural Centre in London / Ratiu Foundation invite you to a special March celebration. Springtime will shortly be here (according to the calendar, at least, if not to the weather), and it is time to celebrate Nature’s coming back to life, to celebrate new beginnings and – being Romanians – to celebrate our “rites” of March: the ‘Martisor’ (the 1st of March), and Women’s Day (the 8th). The former is an old custom celebrating the arrival of Spring. The latter - which is in fact the International Women’s Day – was made official in our country by the communist regime, but people adopted it for their own. Both celebrations are of equal importance in nowadays Romania, since both have become occasions to express our love and gratitude for the fairer sex. Dress: Casual but Smart. As the name of the event suggests, it would be nice if you could wear red and/or white items of clothing. Romanian national dress also strongly recommended. Come together with your special one and take part in this celebration of Spring. It would not be a proper Romanian celebration without traditional Romanian food and Romanian wine. Good atmosphere and abundant merrymaking guaranteed. You are bound to leave the event with a spring in your step. Martisor (pronounced myrrh-tsee-shore) – The first day of March. The term might be loosely translated as ‘little March’. With this occasion, girls and women receive from family and acquaintances a double-threaded red and white string, usually accompanied by a small trinket. This object with its string also came to be known as ‘martisor’. The ‘martisor’ is pinned to the lapel and worn for at least one week. In some parts of the country, the tradition requires that the string would then be tied to a flowering tree, to bring good luck and a good crop. The origins of the custom are lost in the shadows of time, some believing it to come from our Roman ancestors and their Ides of March celebrations. It could also be Thracian in origin, since it can be encountered in Bulgaria as well. Whatever the case be, the symbolism of the red and white string hails back to the time of pagan beliefs, red symbolising blood and death, and white purity and rebirth. Originally, the custom in Romania was to give the red and white string to both men and women, and it was worn tied to the wrist. With the passing of time, small charms and coins came to be attached to the string. The charms of the modern ‘martisor’ generally come in the shape of flowers or animals, and are made of materials ranging from wood and plastic to silver, gold, and precious stones. After mid-February, the ‘martisor’ makers gather at the corners of public squares or in piazzas and exhibit their wares on stands. Shortly before the big day (1 March), these areas are completely swamped with buyers. This is a must-do tradition, and it is considered in very poor taste and mean-spirited not to offer these small tokens of appreciation to the women in one’s family and to female acquaintances. The people who receive vast quantities of such gifts are, as a rule, schoolmistresses and teachers. The regular ‘crop’ could be of more than 60 trinkets, of all makes, materials, and tastes. For members of the family and friends who live in another city or country, Romanians have invented the ‘martisor’ greeting card, which, if it doesn’t have a string stapled to it, is at least printed with a red and white border. The 8th of March – International Women’s Day. In Romania, this celebration also stands for Mother’s Day. With this occasion, men of all ages offer flowers to the women in their families and of their acquaintance. Regular people, businesses, and the local and central government also mark this day in all manners: the traffic police offer carnations or roses to women drivers, taxi firms offer free or discounted rides, stores come with special price offers. Flowers are the main feature, and buying them on the very day comes with extortionate prices, just as with Valentine’s Day in the UK or US. As with the ‘martisor’, the people who receive the biggest bouquets and the greatest numbers of flowers are schoolmistresses and teachers.