Sitting outside in the first spring sun of 2016, just before March 1st, my intention was to write about raw chocolate and my up-coming "Taste the Chocolate" day (I will still write about it later today, it's on March 4th).
But as right now it feels like the beginning of spring (out of the wind and in full sun in my little garden in The Hague, NL), while V is playing (throwing) with sand outside and I listen to the first bird's song this year, I feel the nostalgy of spring in Romania.
In RO, on March 1st, people exchange the Mărțișor (untranslatable, see picture) and it's for everybody the launching of spring.
The few days before, everybody is busy-busy-busy buying and/or making Mărțișoare, and making lists with people they want to surprise with one.
"Mărțișoare" are small things, with a white and red thread attached to them, and they symbolize Love.
Traditionally, in Bucharest girls and women get and proudly wear the Mărțișor. The more, the better :-)
(In some other parts of the country, I understand that men also can be on the receiving end.)
"Mărțișoarele" are the most beautiful delicate things, whatever one can imagine, from whatever material one can imagine. My personal favorites were always the glass ones.
A few years ago I also found such beautiful things made of glass in Venice (IT), but I still love the Mărțișoare more because of what they symbolize and the beautiful custom and tradition they are part of.
Since I live in the NL I am only making Mărțișoare and I miss receiving them and going to all the places where I could find them, which kinda is everywhere in Bucharest. I miss the hunt, I miss the excitement of the search for the perfect one, all the people selling them and the wonderful miniature works of art some people would make with this occasion.
Also, the first 9 days of March are the "Babele" (translated "Old hags") days. The weather these days can be extremely different from day to day in Romania. (Something that usually happened only in the beginning of March; now, with the climate changes, weather might be different..). When I was still living there, one day would be very warm and sunny, above 20C, the next day it could be snowing and freezing, the third day the sun would shine again.
The weather could also change during the day at an extreme rate, I would never know exactly what to wear.
I remember one such day in particular, in my third architecture year.
I was meeting some Dutch friends. They had traveled by a car from the NL and I was to pick them up in the Center of Bucharest. We were going to organise a student exchange together.
In the morning when I left home it was freezing cold so I had quite a few woollen layers on, including two woollen long skirts made by my mom (..those were/are amazingly beautiful, and that's another story) and really warm boots.
My Dutch friends arrived a bit late in the afternoon and by then it was so warm and sunny that I had taken off most of my clothes, keeping on only a t-shirt and a woollen skirt on. The rest was piled up next to me and my bare feet and my friends were quite puzzled at the site. When later we went to eat something at a nearby cafe (on the top of the National Theater, for the ones who remember it), I only took my boots on, without socks - and I was still burning up. :-)
Coming back to the weather, there is also a beautiful (and sad!) legend related to this weather patternless-pattern in Romania, about how a certain stone formation (also called "Babele") came to exist in the Bucegi mountains.
The custom is, March 1st is the first day of spring and then one chooses one of the days between March 1st and March 9th. Then, depending on how the weather is that particular day one chose, so is, depending on the family tradition and region his/her soul or his/her coming year..
Of course, one would love to have a beautiful weather day - and things can get rather personal if the weather is stormy and freezing on your particular day :-)..
People would ask "care e baba ta?" (which day is your "baba" - old hag) and if the weather was good, one would say proudly "azi e baba mea" (Today is my "baba" - old hag).. :-)
Typically one would choose another day each year hoping on good weather but some would choose always the same number, it was a roller coaster anyway.
I know my mother (hi, mom!) would always choose March 7th. For a few years after I heard that 7 was her favorite number, I would also choose March 7th just to be "with her" that day :-)..
And then there's March 8th, when Romanians celebrate the International Women's Day (which in NL is different, so much for "international" :-) ).
It all culminates with March 9th when it's "Mucenici" day.
March 9th is the Christian feast of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, a traditional holiday in Romania and Moldova.
Depending on the region, every family makes some special treats.
In our family, it was the small 8 formed ones, boiled with walnuts, sugar, rum, and cinnamon, the Mucenici Muntenești (from Muntenia, the southern part of Romania).
We could not make them every year, when food was scarce we could not always find all the ingredients, however few. One year there were no walnuts, the next no flour, etc.
But the times we made them (I mean, my family made them, my participation in the whole process was at the time very little beyond eating them), they were so delicious and the house would smell amazing when the little mucenici would lay around to dry before the boiling. (at the end of the article link to the recipe in Romanian)
In other parts of the country, there is the bigger "mucenici" model, made of a more complex dough, with grated walnuts and soaked in a delicious syrup. All yum. :-)
(in the picture, mucenici from Moldova and below the article a link to the recipe in Romanian).
After March 9th everybody in RO feels like spring is there to stay.
So, tomorrow being March 1st, today I am making Mărțișoare (the raw chocolate variant :-) ) and enjoying the memories of past exploding-spring days in Romania, while sitting in the mild sun of The Netherlands.
Life is good.
Ps: Of course, with the quite accurate weather forecast that we benefit from now, one can see the weather in advance.
I checked, for both NL and RO. :-)
So if you are Romanian and still counting on a surprise, weather spoiler alert below :-)
For Bucharest, they either are all going to have an amazing year or they are all wonderful souls - as the coming 10 days the weather will be amazing there (above 17C up to 25!!)..
(Or it's the global warming at it again).
In the NL, really cold (freezing at night) and extremely wet and gray weather coming up for the next 10 days, with storms and all.. The kind of weather that makes me kinda want to revise my March traditions and superstitions. :-)
pictures taken from:
Poze cu Mărțișoare PozeQ
Mucenici Muntenesti (recipe in Romanian)
Mucenici Moldovenești (recipe in Romanian)
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