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The 9th of March – a day of ancient customs and traditions

9 March 2018 No Comment

The Christian Celebration of The 40 Holy Martyrs is the first of a series of religious spring holidays, marked by many customs. According to popular belief, it is said that this day is a line of demarcation between winter and summer, between the capricious days of Dochia and the warm ones of the Old Men.

Tradition also says that Baba Dochia dies and turns into a cliff on the Martyrs’ day. On this day, the Old Men were believed to have been sacrificed and later transformed into ashes on the funeral pyre, due to their faithlessness.

The 40 Holy Martyrs whom the Orthodox Church celebrates of the 9th of March  were Christian soldiers who lived during the time of the Roman emperor Licinius (308-324), a harsh persecutor of Christians. Because of their  refusal to worship idols and abandon the Christian faith, the martyrs were imprisoned for eight days and severely beaten with stones. Then, Agricola -the governor of Armenia- sentenced them to death by freezing in Sebaste Lake.  It was in those moments, due to the unshakable faith and many prayers of the martyrs, that great wonders happened: the water of the lake got heated, the ice suddenly melted down and 40 bright halos fell from heaven upon the martyrs’ heads. In the end, all the martyrs passed away, not before undergoing other severe tortures. Since then, the Christians pay homage to the martyrs by preaparing and eating baked or boiled “saints” (Romanian “sfințișori”).

In Moldavia, housewives use to prepare delicious eight-shaped “martyrs” of dough, baked in the oven and trundled through an abundance of honey and ground walnuts. According to popular belief, the ”martyrs” (Romanian „mucenicii”) are shared with relatives, neighbours and poor people, in memory of the loved ones who have passed away and also, for attracting abundant future crops.

The elders say that if it rains on the Martyrs’ Day, then it will also rain on Easter Day; if thunder and lightning appear on this day, then rich harvests are to be expected and if the night is gloomy, then the autumn will be long.


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