Traditional fabrics, hats, fur coats, wool blankets, March tokens, carved or glass-painted icons, ceramics, natural syrups, honey and, of course, traditional food from various regions of the country were the attraction of the 40 Martyrs fair at the Romanian Peasant’s Museum over the weekend. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, thousands of visitors from Bucharest and beyond came to enjoy the offers of craftsmen and cooks and the weather was also an ally on the last fair day.
As expected, the biggest crowd was at the stall where the famous Moldavian 40 Martyrs cookies were being prepared out of dough in the shape of the figure 8, symbolizing the cosmic equilibrium, before the curious eyes.
Marked in the Orthodox calendar with a black cross, the 9th of March is the Christian holiday of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, combined with ancestral practices of commemoration of one’s relatives passed away and the challenge of Spring. The dough cookies stand for the spirits of those mythical ancestors, for whom women prepare ritual foods that are to be consumed in a ceremonial context or offered as charity at the church. The cookies are called martyrs or little saints and have the shape of figure eight, an echo across the centuries of ritual human sacrifices attested to in the New Year ceremonies that would be celebrated on the Spring equinox in the old times.