WHO IS CELEBRATING “MLADENCI”
Newlyweds celebrate “Mladenci” in the first year of their marriage. Those who got married after 22nd of March in the previous year. On that day, young newlyweds, receive guests in their home, family and friends who were also attending their wedding ceremony, and all those guests usually bring gifts which would help them in the beginning of their marriage and their life together.
On 22nd of march, every year, young housewives in Serbia get up at the crack of dawn just to make no more no less than forty small cookies, also called “Mladencici”. Those cookies symbolize a long, happy and sweet life of the newlyweds. Those home-made cookies are baked in the oven, with lots of love, and usually coated with honey or chocolate. Cookies may be circular in shape, but also in the form of scissors, swords, sheep, and chicken. Young brides welcome guests during all morning and afternoon, and they try to show the best of their housing skills, and hospitality.
Our elders say that before this holiday you shouldn’t eat anything that has sprung up after the New Year. This custom remained in the region because of old Slavs who inhabited this area in the past.
Many couples celebrate this holiday in close company, in the warmth of their homes, but often
by the fault of modern times – in restaurants, cafes and pubs as well.
“Mladenci” always fall in time when ortodox christians have their Eastern feast, so that lunch or dinner should be made from fish and lean cuisine, in the name of good health and progress of future children’s of the host.
WHY ARE WE CELEBRATING “MLADENCI”
Saints Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, were soldiers of the Roman emperor Likinija. When they re-formed persecution of Christians, forty of them did not want to renounce Christ. They were threatened to be deprived of military honor, on what is one of them, according to tradition – Candide said: “Not only the honor of the military, but you may also take our bodies from us; nothing has come to prefer the more honorable than the love of Christ, our God!”. Then the Duke Agricola ordered to stone them, but the rocks just bounced back and struck those who threw them. One stone hit Agricola and smashed his teeth.
After that, the Duke completely freaked out with anger and hatred, so he ordered the soldiers to strip, tied them with stiff ropes and threw all 40 of them into the lake that was bitter cold and icey. Guards stood around the lake, and just to make their torment larger, a warm bath was set on the coast of the lake, with lighted torches all around it and surrounded by huge fires, whit steaming hot water. Only one of forty soldiers lost his faith and went to the hot bath, but he did not get far – on the entrance of that warm bath he suffered a horrible death by freazing to death.
At night the a strange light has shown across the night-sky. It warmed the water in the lake, and danced around the soldiers, it divided into pieces and made 39 wreaths of light around soldiers’ heads. One of the guards, who was standing on the coast while watching this miracle, took off his clothes and shoes, threw his weapons, and entered the lake saying that he became Christian that day. In that same moment the fortieth wreath of heavenly light dropped above his head. The next day, the whole city flock to the shores of the lake, because nobody could believe that the soldiers have spend the night in the ice-cold lake water, which had a thick crust of ice all over, except around the bodies of the martyrs. Then the prince Lassi and Agricola Duke decided to execute them, burn their bodies, and their leftovers and unburnt debris was thrown back into the lake.
Three days after the execution, according to one priest’s story, Bishop Peter soldiers came to his dream and ask of him to pick up the bones of the brave christian soldiers, from the lake. Bishop is touted by authorities and guards, so he had to pick up their remainings in the dead of night, secretly. When he came to the coast the whole lake was brighting, as if a flock of stars from the sky came down and entered the water. When he got a better look he realised that every bone of every soldier martyr is glowing shiny as the stars above. He gave them a real christian burial. They fell victim to the evil and gained eternal glory, while the names of their tormentors remained labeled and tainted for ever and ever.
It is a custom that the bride and the groom wear wreaths on their heads, on their wedding day, especially if they’re getting married in the Ortodox Church. The reason for this is threefold symbolism: the imperial symbol, every man is a “tsar” in his home, martyr wreaths – like in every marriage we must be submitted and dedicated; and wreaths of immortal glory in the “kingdom of Christ”.
This suggests that the spouses should be loyal to each other, such as these soldiers were faithful to Christ, and with high fidelity and love that no temptation can not and must not overcome!
For this feast serbian people have numerous traditions, and one of them, which is tied to the day of the newlyweds is making of traditional „mladenchichi” cookies.
Although the celebration of this holiday was much more intense in the seventies of the last century. According to some traditions, the newlyweds should make not 40, but 41 cookie, for fertility of the newlyweds, and to “invoke” the pregnancy. The forty-first cookie is intended for the child who will be born in that house, for it’s health, prosper, long life and beauty.
Since it is celebrated at the time of the vernal equinox and the awakening of spring, young couples should feel more powerful and energized, after this celebration. This celebration is rooted in Orthodoxy even before, from the time of the ancient Slavs and polytheism in these areas.
Old people and ethnologists claim that the newlyweds should eat as much honey as they can, on this day, some boiled nettles and cabbage to purify the blood and strengthen the blood count.
THE PERFECT GIFT
If you are of those who have been troubed with the question of how to choose the right gift for the dear newlyweds, we’ll give you a few useful tips and suggestions. First, ask the young couple or their parents, what do they need of home furnishings, or what else would they want to have. Give the newlyweds some useful and important necessities for the household, like teacups, deorations for the house, or designer plates. In accordance with the selected gift and the amount of money necessary for a selected gift. It is best to choose something interesting and useful, which will help the young married couple in the house – a set of sharp knives, blender, juicer, some interesting coffee cups or plates, or something to decorate the living space. And, if you are not prepared in time for this holiday, you can take them out for a drink. Finally, whatever you donate, the newlyweds will be happy.
Recipe for Mladencic
- 1/2 kg flour
- 1 fresh yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 dl of warm water
- 0.5 dl of oil
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- grated orange peel
- Raisins, cloves, nuts or chocolate
Knead smooth dough from flour, water, yeast, sugar, oil, orange rind and salt.
Leave on for half an hour to warm the dough doubles in size, knead it, attenuate to a thickness of 0.5 cm, and make 40 muffins (41 if the bride is pregnant, do not remove them from the suitable glass or mold).
It is important to be exactly forty cookies, or forty-one if the newlyweds are expecting a child.
Cookies should be decorated with basil in several places, lined up in the pan… Then let it swell a little. Bake them 20 minutes and while they’re still warm spread them up with honey.
We like decorations in the middle – you can put a grain of raisins, cloves, nuts or melted chocolate.