Made with red and white woven thread, the colors symbolize purity and passion and have their roots in antiquity from the Eleusinian Mysteries, where the priestesses tied a thread around their right hand during services.
A tiny “mati,” or eye, is usually attached to the bracelet. The eye is a long-standing tradition in Greece and Balkan nations which people believe wards off evil spirits, jealousy and other negative energy and protects the bearer.
The bracelet is tied on in early March — hence the name “Martaki” or “little March” — and is left on for the entire month.
It’s especially popular among parents with small children who consider the bracelets “lucky charms” for their kids.
Like any custom that has its roots thousands of years in antiquity, specific aspects of the Martaki have evolved over time, as well as throughout regions of Greece.