Spring Traditions 3: Mucenici & 44 shots

After Women’s day on the 8th, we Romanians have other traditions but this time related to men. With religious and laic roots, on March 9th all the Christianity (othodox at least) celebrates the sacrifice of the 40 saints from Sevastia who died for their faith in Jesus. Around 320 a.c., 40 soldiers were captured in order to give up on their Christian faith. As they refused, they were undressd and force to go into a freezing lake. But then, instead of dying they started praying to God who saved them. Unfortunately they were tortured and then burned, so now people make big fires on that day in the memory of the 40 saints.

In Romania, it is a time for the nature getting back to life, for people to be more kind, to give away to the poor. So on March 9th it is settled that women cook some yeast dough in the shape of an eight which they anoint with honey, sugar and grounded nuts. Usually the mucenici are given away to the neighbours or taken to the curch to be given away. The old beliefs says the people who give away will have a good year, but sometimes they are just eaten by the family, as they really taste good. 🙂 Oh, and their name, “mucenici” means “martyrs”, “saints”.

Mucenici moldovenesti (from Moldavian region, north east)


and the full recipe


In the southern regions, they are smaller just like pasta and they are cooked in some soup made with cinnamon, sugar and nuts. I honestly never had the mucenici like this (they look bad), but they are pretty common as well.

Mucenici muntenesti (from Muntenia region, south)



Another tradition most enjoyed by men, is on March 9th to drink 44 glasses of alcohol (some say wine, some say “rachiu”, an alcoholic traditional drink which I will probably present later on my blog). It is said since ancient roman times that who will drink the 44 glasses will be strong for the whole year, as the wine will convert into blood.

Mucenicii and the 44 shots are not the only customs of this day: peasants make big fires to burn down the cold winter and purify the spirits, or they clean and bring out the plows and go to the fields. But then these of course are very old traditions when people actually had plows, not tractors:) It is said that how the weather will be on March 9th, the same will be on Easter day, so the people knock the ground with the beats to bring out the heat and banish the cold weather.

Begining with March 9th, the days of the old men start, Dochia’s days are over and the calendar is turning into good weather as the old men are good and wise.

Spring Traditions 2: Baba Dochia

Baba means “old lady” but it’s just not the same if I say “old lady Dochia”, so here it is: another legend& customs related to the first days of March. As an old popular myth, the first 9 days of spring are considered Dochia’s days and they have a great semnification by region.

The most know tradition is for women to choose one of these days to be theirs (their “baba” it is said) and in that year their soul& character will be as in that specific day. Others think that reflects their happiness and prosperity that year. Also in some parts of Romania, young men choose a day and how the weather will be in that day, the same will be their wife: beautiful, ugly, rich or poor, sweet, fertile, barren etc. Basically everybody wishes their “baba” to be sunny and warm 🙂

There is also a method of calculating each one’s “baba” taken into account the date of birth: for example if you are born on 13, your day will be 4 (1+3+4), or if if your birthdate is on 29th, then your baba will be on March the 2nd (2+9=11, 1+1=2). Anyway, you can also choose, it’s not that strict.

But what is the real legend? Well, as with all the legends, nobody knows for sure, so we have more stories…

One of the most common, Baba Dochia an old and tough lady sheperd makes a bet with the Cold and the Snow that she can beat them. So she takes 9 coats in order to succeed in climbing a mountain with her sheep flock. But the weather is at first warm and she each day takes off one coat untill the 9th when it’s freezing and snows a lot so she dies. So the 9 days represent a very dangerous period in the popular superstitions, people even had a day off in the old times celebrating the spring and trying not to upset the cold, to have good weather for the agriculture that year and Dochia to protect them and their animals.

Others say that Dochia was the beautiful daughter of king Decebal himself and after Traian conquered Dacia, he fell in love with the girl and wanted to marry her, to give an example of blending Dachs and Romans. But the girl was very proud and insulted by the Roman king, so she runaway in the mountains where she turned into stone along with her sheep. You can even see the stone of course, on magic mountain of Moldavia, Ceahlau.

Another story shows Dochia as the Mother of Dragobete who married without her consent with a girl. Angry Dochia gave the daughter in law some black wool and sent her to the river to wash it untill it will come white. The girl washed the wool untill her hands were bleeding but still she couldn’t make the wool white. Then she started crying and Jesus came to her and gave her a red magical flower to use. the flower made teh wool white, but still, Dochia was unhappy and blamed the girl she was cheating her son with “Martisor” (she called Jesus like this as she didn’t know who he was). Anyway seeing the red flower, Dochia considered the time was right for the transhumance, so she went to the Ceahlau mountain with her flock, but again the weather was changing and she died frozen.

pictures from this beautiful mountain here

Spring Traditions: Martisor

To mark the begining of the spring and warm weather, the nature’s coming back to life, in Romania there are a lot of traditions that are still being followed in our days. For example, it’s an 800 years old custom that on March 1st to offer a small trinket called “martisor” to women or in some regions to men:) This is always associated with a red&white cord that simbolize love& purity.

An old legend says that the cord is a young’s man blood in the snow after he died saving the Sun from a bad dragon that locked him in a basement. The legends are also related to the 4 seasons, summer, autumn, winter in which the hero travelled to find the dragon and the spring, when he slayered the dragon, set free the sun. The white can also represent the snowdrop, which is the herald of the spring.

It’s really a big celebration in Romania, we have a lot of fairs around 1st and 8th of March and a lot of artisans come to sell their hand made products. A trinket can be made from textile, fimo, dried flowers, metal, can be a jewell, a broche but it has to have the red&white cord. Young women asks the boys to tie the cord around their arms and they wear it as a bracelet  12 days for good luck. After, they hang it in a tree in bloom. It is said that the tree will sure give  a good harvest that year.

The actual trinkets with the red&white cord are usually wore as broches in the first days of March fore happiness and god luck. Some of the traditional lucky “martisoare” are: the clover, the chimney sweeper and the horseshoe


Check out some pictures of the “martisoare”, there a re a lot of  blogs which are selling