Arts and Entertainment

Dance the winter away

Islanders are invited to welcome spring — and chase away winter’s darkness and cold — at a traditional Bulgarian-style dance sponsored by the Vashon Folkdancers.

This “Baba Marta” party, a pre-Lent carnival that harkens back to the traditions of Bulgaria, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, March 1, at Havurat Ee Shalom at 15401 Westside Hwy. Both experienced and inexperienced dancers can join in.

A documentary showing traditional village dances in Bulgaria, shot by Martin Koenig in the 1970s, will also be shown.

“Baba Marta” refers to a traditional Bulgarian greeting, “Chestita baba Marta,” which means “Happy Grandma March,” Koenig said. The first day of March is considered by Bulgarians to be a joyful holiday commemorating health, long life, the end of the cold winter and the coming of spring. 

According to Koenig, a popular Bulgarian tradition is for people to exchange this greeting for health and happiness along with gifts of “martenitsi,” red and white tassels symbolizing new life, conception, fertility and spring, which are then worn on clothing or around wrists. The kukeri, he said, are pre-Lenten carnival masked masqueraders who go through the villages dressed in bear skins dancing and making lots of noise to chase the winter spirits away. 

“Bring your red and white tassels. We won’t have kukeri dancers, but we will dance ourselves,” Koenig said.

Families are welcome. Participants are asked to bring finger desserts. A donation of $10 per adult and $5 per student suggested; children are free.

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