By Vyara Nikolova (YES 2017-2018, Bulgaria, hosted by YFU in Farmington Hills, MI)
On March 1, Alper Ahmed (YES 2017-2018, hosted by AYA in Baldwin City, KS) led a workshop at his high school for making martenitsi, traditional handmade bracelets. The martenitsi are a part of a unique Bulgarian tradition celebrated on March 1, also known as “Baba Marta,” which means “Grandmother March.” The bracelets are made out of white and red string and then given to loved ones who you want to have health and happiness. The colors symbolize important values: red is for fertility and to scare away bad spirits and white is for good health. This holiday has been celebrated for centuries and plays a big role in Bulgarian culture. It is not related to any religion, which makes it the most popular and inclusive non-religious holiday.
The aim of this project was to celebrate local culture while promoting the YES program and helping students work on their English skills, since the workshop was held in English. Fifteen of Alper’s classmates participated in this event. “Before the project I had a text in English printed about Baba Marta and the stories surrounding it,” Alper explains. “I presented that story and tried to create a small discussion about it… Everyone loved it and people enjoyed having the discussions and martenitsas and the opportunity to talk in English even if it was for a short time.”