When I'd arrived two Japanese ladies had been leaving and I thought maybe the dolls were left by them. But when I got back and did some research, while I did find lots of Japanese dolls and stuff related to the Cherry Festival none resembled the ones I saw.
So I did a bit more digging and sifting and came across information which pointed at these dolls being Baba Marta Martenitsa Dolls.
Baba Marta is a Bulgarian holiday celebrated on the 1st of March. Baba Marta means Grandma March and has a lot of folklore related to it and the character Baba Marta who is associated with Spring. It is considered one of the oldest existing traditions in Europe having pagan origins.
As with most Spring traditions it is associated with life and rebirth as well as celebrating life and survival.
People wear small ornaments made of white and red yarn. The two Martenitsa dolls are called Pizho and Penda. Pizho who is predominantly white is male while Penda who is predominantly red is female and has a skirt. White represents purity while red symbolises life and passion.
According to tradition you cannot buy martenitsi for yourself. They have to be received as a gift. People give them to loved ones, family and friends to whom you feel close too. You wear by pinning it to clothing or hanging it around your wrist or your neck. Martenitsa are worn until you see a stork, swallow or a budding tree which mark the beginning of spring
The ritual of taking them off is different in different parts of Bulgaria. However, some people will tie it to a tree which impart health and luck to the tree, which accounts for these two ending up on the Magnolia tree. Other rituals involve putting the Martenitsa under a stone and the belief is that the type of creature that comes closest to it the next day will determine your health in the coming year. A larva or worm denote health and success. If it is an ant the same applies except you will need to work hard to achieve that.
Similar traditions are held with in the region extending through Albania, Romania, Moldova, The Republic of Macedonia and Northern Greece
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My other blogs· Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters (on plants, animals as well as gardening, conservation and environmental matters): http://plantsandcritters.blogspot.com/
· The Blood of Souls (language, translation and etymology) : http://thebloodofsouls.blogspot.com/
· Whiskers on Kittens (Life with Kittens and Cats in general) : http://whiskersonkittens-vincent.blogspot.com/