Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pugs in Pașcani

Sorry, this post isn't about the Pug dog, but a local graffiti artist (or criminal depending on your viewpoint). I've seen the tags all over town for a while & decided to head out for a photo shoot the other day. It's tough to represent a city in photos, but here is a bit of Pașcani through one lens on one day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mărțișor: The First of March

Mărțișor from Our Students

Today Romanians celebrate the beginning of spring with the holiday of Mărțișor. It is an ancient holiday based on a legend about the beginning of spring. On this holiday people exchange small trinkets with red and white ribbons. The trinkets provide good luck and ward off evil. The colors signify the unity between contrasts: summer and winter, cold and hot, light and dark.

Ladybugs are particularly lucky!

Handmade from paper

Hand crocheted

The Legend of Mărțișor (thanks to Raluca from the Peace Corps Romania office for providing this)
Legend has it that hundreds of years ago an old woman by the name of Dochia had a daughter-in-law whom she hated. One cold day in late winter, Dochia gave her some black wool and told her to go to the river in the mountains and wash it until it was pure white. The young woman was afraid of her mother-in-law. So she went to the river and spent hours washing the wool in freezing water. For all her efforts, the wool remained pitch black. The young woman began to cry. Suddenly, a man appeared before her. He told her his name was Mărțișor. "Why are you crying?" he asked the young woman. After hearing her story, Mărțișor said he had magic powers to help her. He gave the young woman a red and white flower. He told her to wash the wool one more time and then take it home. The young woman put the flower behind her ear, washed the wool, and carried it home on her head.

When she got home and looked at the wool, she was speechless. The wool was white as snow. Old Dochia couldn't believe her eyes either. She had been sure her daughter-in-law would never be able to wash the wool white. Suddenly, she noticed the flower in her daughter-in-law's hair. "Where did this come from?" she asked. "It’s still winter." The young woman then explained how Mărțișor had helped her. Old Dochia started jeering at her daughter-in-law. She did not believe a single word of it but thought instead that spring had already come to the mountains.

Old Dochia owned a herd of sheep and decided it was probably time to take the animals to the spring pasture in the mountains. She took a dozen sheepskins to keep herself warm on the way. It was a warm and sunny day when old Dochia set off but freezing rain started in the mountains when she got there. Old Dochia changed her coats one by one as they got wet. When she had to take the last coat off, Mărțișor suddenly appeared before her. "How does it feel to be standing here in the freezing rain?" he asked. "You didn't think it was too cold for your daughter-in-law to wash wool in the river all day long, did you?" He then told old Dochia that he was responsible for the weather changes that had caused her so much trouble. Mărțișor disappeared. Old Dochia was left alone in the mountains. The sheep wandered away. The old woman froze to death and turned into stone. All of this had been the work of Mărțișor. It was after old Dochia turned into stone that spring finally came.