Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 10.COM 10.B.11

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Republic of Moldova and Romania have nominated Cultural practices associated to the first of March (No. 01093) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Cultural practices associated with the first of March celebrate the beginning of spring. Each year, women in Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova and Romania twist red and white woollen threads together to make a charm called a mártenitsa, martinki or mărţişor. The charm is offered to family members, friends, colleagues or teachers, who wear it around the neck, wrist, ankle or belly, or pinned to their clothes. It can also be tied around cattle horns or attached to doors or gateposts to provide protection in the coming year. The charm is worn from early March until the wearer sees the first tree in blossom. The thread is then left on a branch, under a stone, or thrown onto a grass bed or into a well. In urban environments, the red-and-white thread has undergone significant changes with the addition of trinkets made of metal, wood, glass or textiles. Offering first of March charms is a way to express feelings and good wishes, and assert social solidarity. It is also a way to carry on those traditions that form part of local and national identities. The colour white suggests purity, while red stands for vitality (health, beauty or love). In rural areas, young girls learn how to make the charm from older women.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criterion:

R.1:   The practice of marking the beginning of spring is widespread in all four submitting States, incorporating a range of differences between rural and urban areas as regards ways of transmission, categories of makers, contexts of enactment and economic utilization; the coherence of the element rests in its social functions and meanings such as the expression of love, wishes for good health and prosperity, and observance of old traditions.

  1. Further decides that the information included in the file is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criteria are satisfied:

R.2:   Although the multinational character of the nomination in itself testifies to a dialogue among communities and greater visibility of the element and awareness of its significance, the nomination does not clearly describe the contribution of inscription to the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general; in addition, arguments offered by one of the submitting States in its inventory extract, namely that the element is endangered by contaminating influences from neighbouring people and that the customs of the neighbouring people should not be allowed to interfere, do not contribute to the encouragement of dialogue;

R.3:   The proposed safeguarding measures apparently contradict the spirit of the Convention by foregrounding the notion of authenticity, which manifests itself in an emphasis put on scholarly documentation and research, a top-down approach and a lack of evidence on community involvement in the elaboration of safeguarding measures; possible unintended consequences of the inscription and measures responsive to them are not addressed; furthermore, one of the submitting States is omitted in the description of past and current efforts to safeguard the element;

R.4:   In the case of two submitting States, the nomination does not explain what makes selected communities representative for the practice of the element and consequently for the nomination file; in the letters of consent from two other submitting States there is no evidence that those who consented to the nomination were aware of its multinational character;

R.5:   Although all submitting States maintain an inventory of intangible cultural heritage and provided evidence on the element’s inclusion therein, the information on the conformity with Articles 11 and 12 of the Convention is, depending on the submitting State in question, mostly either lacking, incomplete or ambiguous.

  1. Decides to refer the nomination of Cultural practices associated to the first of March to the States Parties for additional information and invites them to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;
  2. Commends the States Parties for proposing a multinational file that testifies the dynamics between urban and rural environments;
  3. Invites the States Parties, if they wish to resubmit the nomination, to avoid inappropriate language such as ‘authentic’ and ‘genuine’ and to take care that inventorying at the national level is not guided by such concepts;
  4. Suggests that the States Parties, if they wish to resubmit the nomination, improve the video by paying more attention to the social and cultural context of the element.