Either for fun and holiday or for religious purposes, Romanian people give great importance to Easter and celebrate it fittingly. Colored eggs, special sweets, lamb roast, visiting friends and going to the church, all these symbolize the triumph of light over dark, the passage from cold to warm and the revival of nature.
There’s left to see how many of the Romanian traditions are actually still respected nowadays. Some of the people celebrate Easter only out of inertia, since this event is present throughout the entire country; some others though, especially in the rural area, take it seriously and don’t forget even one of the old Orthodox traditions.
Knock-knock! All the family is reunited to crack the red eggs
Actually, today eggs are painted in all the colors, except for the monasteries and for the countryside, where people still spend a lot of time meticulously painting the Easter eggs with intricate designs. Nonetheless, most of the families comply with the culinary traditions and work to death to prepare the special cake and bread, the lamb dishes and, obviously, the colored eggs. The thorough cleaning of the house is also a very important point on the agenda, since everything has to be perfect before Sunday morning – from carpets to curtains and gardens. The Holy Week definitely becomes a great opportunity for shopping and house work, and this is one of the main reasons why people neglect going to the church. However, passing under the Holy Table and surrounding the church in the Holy Friday are still highly practiced throughout the country. Saturday night puts an end to this bustle, because that’s when, freshly bathed and newly dressed, people go to the church. At 11 p.m. all the streets are full of people waiting for the Holy Light – but, let’s be honest, the phosphorescent bracelets and balloons have nothing to do with the significance of this celebration. Many see the Resurrection Mass as an occasion to go out, while feeling they are participants in the life of the community. At midnight though, the candle lights cover the streets and create a special atmosphere, boosted by the religious song which sends you on a contemplative trip. Don’t worry, that won’t take long, everyone is hurrying back home, where they will finish the fasting period by enjoying the delicious food together with their friends and family.
Easter from long ago or the funniest traditions one have ever heard of
Easter celebration brings together a lot of traditions, partially religious, partially pagan, which are respected especially in the rural areas from Bucovina and Transylvania. I will present in the following lines some of these customs – personally, I consider them both funny and incredibly important in order to understand the Romanian popular mentality.
- If a woman hasn’t finished weaving and embroidering the cotton shirts until the Holy Thursday, Joimărița (literally, this means the Holy Thursday Woman) will punish the poor guilty woman by beating, burning or eating her! No wonder why everyone finishes her work in time…
- Dead people come to visit their loved ones who are still alive over the Easter holiday – this involves that they should have water, food and a big fire to keep them warm when the night falls down.
- If you don’t eat anything during the Holy Friday, you will be healthy all year long and, in addition, you will know 3 days in advance when your life will come to an end.
- Once you get off the bed on the Holy Friday morning, you have to step on a small piece of iron, while on the Easter morning you have to step on a bed linen – all these should save you from wounds and itching in the coming summer.
- Easter eggs, cakes and bread can be prepared only on Thursday and Saturday. But hang on to this! – trays should be introduced in the oven only with the right hand, in a moment of complete silence. Moreover, the trays number has to be even, if you want to avoid the death of your beloved husband.
- People who crack red eggs on Easter will meet again in the after life.
- A nap is completely forbidden on the Easter day, if you don’t want to be sleepy all year long. Also be careful and keep away from salt, otherwise you will have sweaty hands in the following summer.
- On Sunday morning, unmarried girls used to hold a red egg in their breast or to stick egg shells to the house doors, in order to attract men.
- In the second day of Easter, that is Monday, boys used to wet girls by throwing them in a river or in a lake. Don’t get angry, girls, if that happens to you – that means someone will soon pop the question 😉 .
As I was saying, this celebration represents a great opportunity for women to prove their great cooking skills. Unfortunately, this usually means that the full-of-calories Easter meals will be followed by digestion medicines and, even worse, by visits to the doctor. Although exaggerated appetite and food excess aren’t at all encouraged by the orthodox fasting tradition, the Romanian Easter goodies make food abstinence seem science fiction. Lamb roast has an important place on the table, together with the beautifully-colored eggs and the sweet-perfumed cakes. However, no meal should ever start without cracking the eggs, an opportunity to compete for “the toughest one”. Don’t be surprised if you hear everyone saying “Hristos a înviat!”-“Adevărat a înviat!” (“Jesus is resurrected!” – “He’s truly resurrected!”), these exclamations are used both when cracking eggs and when greeting someone during Easter holidays.