Forty Martyrs' Day

Forty Martyrs' Day

March 9
The "Forty Martyrs of Sebaste" were Roman soldiers quartered in Armenia in 320. Agricola, the governor of the province, told them that under orders of the Emperor Licinius, they would have to make a sacrifice to the Roman gods. As Christians, they refused to do so. Agricola told them to strip themselves naked and stand on the ice of a nearby pond. All died from exposure during the night. They are greatly revered in the Eastern Christian Church. This day is observed in the Orthodox church in Syria as Id al-Arba'in Shahid . In Greece, special foods are prepared: cake with 40 layers of pastry, stew with 40 herbs, 40 pancakes, etc. In Romania, little cakes called sfintisori ("little mints") are baked and given to and received from every passerby. Coliva, a cake of cooked corn and honey, is also traditional. Farm tools are readied for work, and hearth ashes are spread around the cottage to keep the serpent from entering (each home is said to have a serpent protecting it).
CONTACTS:
Orthodox America, Nikodemus Orthodox Publication Society
P.O. Box 383
Richfield Springs, NY 13439
SOURCES:
BkFest-1937, p. 328
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 206
OxYear-1999, p. 111