Yes, you read correctly: drinking 40 glasses of wine on “Mucenici”. Puzzling? Yes. But there is a story behind the custom. On March 9th, in my country (Romania), we are celebrating the “Mucenici” holiday. On this day, women bake “mucenici” or “little saints” (in the Moldavian part of the country they are prepared in the oven, in the southern part the mucenici are smaller and boiled, with walnuts, cinnamon and lemon. It is, if you want, some sort of a sweet soup. But let’s see the story.
On 9th March, we celebrate the death of 40 Christians who didn’t gave up their faith. They were soldiers in the army of the pagan ruler Licinius. When they were asked to give up their religion and start praying to the pagan idols, they refused and the punishment for them was to be thrown in the Sebaste/Sevaste frozen lake. It is believed that three miracles happen: the lake cod warmer, the ice melted and 40 shining crowns got down on these people. The next day, their legs were crushed and were left to die.
A sad story, like many others, in the name of faith – and so we celebrate their sacrifice.
The Sweets – Mucenici
However, many people love “mucenici” for the special sweets – either the ones made in the oven, or the sweet soup. I too have to admit that I recall the special smell of walnut mixed with a little cinnamon from my childhood and I could hardly wait for my granny to prepare the mucenici. She used to make them in house – though nowadays we can buy the mucenici and only prepare the soup (boil them, then add the walnut, cinnamon and the zest from one lemon.) This what I’ll do 😀 These “mucenici” are shaped in the form of the number 8.
The 40 glasses of wine
Yeah, I am sure this is the most interesting part of the tradition for a foreigner: why drink 40 glasses of wine (some even say 44 – have no idea why). 40 – you guessed – is from the number of soldiers that were killed. However, it is believed that the wine transforms itself in blood during the year.
Yes, I have to admit, I think 40 glasses it way too much wine and I would never comply with this part of the tradition. Not many people do – wine transformed to blood or not. But, for those who like to drink, it is a perfect occasion to do just that!
wine glasses, image from Shutterstock
In the countryside, people used to welcome warm weather on this day. The plow was got out on this day in the village. An egg was placed in front of the animals harnessed to the plow and if the egg wasn’t crushed, it was believed that the workers will have a great year in field works. (details on the Mucenici celebration can be found here – article in Romanian)
Also, some say that, today is a special day when we should celebrate all the people that don’t have a “name day“ during the year (are not celebrated ).
Another tradition states that today would be some sort of a men’s day – after the Women’s Day.