In the Orthodox calendar, the day of March 9 is dedicated to the Holy 40 Martyrs of Sevastia. It is said that in Emperor Lichinie times in Sevastia, Armenia, lived voivoda Agricolae that has 40 soldiers, all Christians. Hearing about that, forced them to deny their faith and to worship idols. Because they refused to renounce Christianity, were terribly tortured and eventually was burned at the stake. Mucenici or măcinici (Romanian for martyrs) are named also the spirits of ancestors, celebrated on this day.
In the popular calendar, Mucenicii, Moşii de Mărţişor (approx. The Elders from March), Sfinţişorii (The Little Saints) or Sâmbra plugului (untranslatable) (the name varies from one area to another) - means the end of winter, the beginning of spring and and of the agricultural year. On this day, in the rural areas there are a number of rituals in which people still believe: all those who do not have names of saints are celebrating this day their name day; all trash and debris collected over winter are set in fire in the yard or garden, and if the smoke goes straight up into the sky, it is said that in the next 40 days will be good weather to work the land; people give a sort of eight-shaped pretzels, made from pannetone dough, baked in the oven, then smeared with honey and sprinkled with crushed nuts and sugar; people drink 40 glasses of wine (or if they don't support this... treatment, 40 tablespoons of wine); the entire household is sprayed with holy water and incensed, three times, from east to west, as to banish evil, people and animals to be good all year, and the household to prosper.
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