BUCHAREST, Romania – Millions of Eastern Europeans celebrated the arrival of spring Wednesday with charms tied with red-and-white string, a centuries-old custom symbolizing hope and a new season.
People across Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova buy and give good-luck trinkets to celebrate March 1, the day that marks the beginning of spring.
In Romania where women receive charms, some used the festival to promote an anti-corruption message, an echo of recent massive anti-graft protests.
One artisan produced heart-shaped charms inscribed with word "rezist," a slogan of the protests that were triggered by a now-withdrawn government decree that would have eased penalties for some forms of official misconduct.
At a busy junction in Bucharest, officers from a government anti-corruption unit handed out flowers and "martisori" (the word comes from the Romanian for March) with an anti-graft message to enthusiastic women.
In their simplest form the charms are red-and-white tassels that symbolize love, health and fertility. In Moldova, both men and women receive them, and in Bulgaria the good-luck charms are even given to animals. They are pinned to clothing or tied to front gates.
The tradition has become commercialized in recent years, with trinkets made in China sold by vendors on busy streets and in malls.
But at Bucharest's Peasant Museum this week, some artisans showcased traditional skills, which have enjoyed a revival,
Mirella Neagoe, a craftswoman with a garland of pink flowers around her head, displayed her handmade trinkets on Tuesday.
"I polish and paint each piece with my hand; you'll notice you can't find two alike."
It doesn't pay much, she said, adding: "I can't stop doing it because I absolutely love it."