Culture and traditions series – no 2 Romania
Culture and traditions – no 2 Romania
Romanian culture sets itself apart from others in Europe with its rich and colorful traditions, most of them vividly kept alive in the countryside.
Many travelers come to this corner of Europe exactly to immerse themselves into centuries old customs and taste how life back in the days was.
Every season and important celebrations are marked in a unique and picturesque way, a list of all these customs would be almost impossible to go through in a blog post or an article. We picked just couple of them regarding Spring and Summer.
Martisor – March
Every year, March 1st is the day when all Romanians celebrate the return of Spring, a day that brings optimism and faith in a better future.
It is a way to say cold winter days are now behind, and nature will slowly revive under the blessings of the sunny Spring days. It is said that the person who wears the red and white string, called Martisor, would enjoy a prosperous and healthy year.
If back in the days people wore just this simple red and white thread, like a bracelet, modern times brought an upgraded version of the celebration. It is the custom to buy silky red-white threads tied into a bow to which a small trinket is attached and offer them to their female family members, friends and colleagues to show friendship, respect or admiration.
Young women also wear the red and white string around their wrist, until the last day of March and then hang it on a bloomed tree branch. It is believed to cast away evil spirits and work as a good luck charm.
Painted Easter eggs – April
There is a close connection between Easter celebration and the older pre-Christian spring traditions in Romania.
Easter date varies from one year to another, however most of the times it is celebrated in April, a perfect moment to enjoy spring season at its high point.
The most famous Easter tradition regards the painted eggs richly ornated with intricated symbols whose meanings go back to hundreds of centuries ago. In the hands of the talented local artisans painted eggs turn into beautiful works of art that exhibited for sale at different local markets or Easter themed fairs.
The secret for long lasting painted eggs is to remove the yoke, treat the eggshell with wax not to break easily and then the intricate details are drawn with a special tiny tool. However, one doesn’t need to be a skilled artisan to enjoy this wonderful Easter tradition.
Every single household has one or two dozen of painted Easter eggs in a rainbow of colors, though the most common is red. These painted eggs don’t have intricate symbols, but one can use a special trick, every grandmother knows: wrap the egg in small tree or flower leaves when immersed into the dye. The product will be both eatable and looking great on your Easter table.
Customs in Moldova
Speaking about that, there are one or two very special and cherished customs for Easter Sunday.
In Moldova (the Eastern region of Romania), people wash their faces with water from a recipient in which a red egg, flowers and a coin where put beforehand. Story has it that they will be beautiful, healthy and rich, and the last person in the house to wash his/her face will also take the coin.
The second custom can be spotted everywhere in the country, people of all ages and all walks of life enjoying it a lot. The eggs competition has a specific set of rules and involves the whole family and even friends if they come to visit. The eldest person has the first hit, and it’s done with the head of the egg while saying ‘Jesus Christ has been resurrected’. The person holding the other egg holds it still and says ‘Indeed, he has!’.
Winner is the one whose egg is not broken, and this competition continues until everybody had its turn.
Junii Brasovului – June
Many people know Transylvania for its beautiful surroundings and for the history and customs that make Romania such a rich country.
The people of Brasov respect the town’s old customs, the most renowned being the beautiful horseback parade that takes place every first Sunday after Easter. Tens of thousands of people gather every year to witness this spectacular parade that starts from one of the oldest quarters in town, Scheii Brasovului.
This celebration is known as ‘Junii Brasovului’ and it comprises of several different events that culminate with the Sunday parade and a general feast with music and food for everyone to take part to.
Dating back more than three centuries ago, the custom of ‘Juni’ started like an initiation ritual among young men; the Romanian word ‘june’ meaning ‘unmarried young fellow’. This celebration is a mix of both Pagan spring and Christian rituals.
June 24th is a special day in the countryside, every village marking with a special celebration the summer solstice.
Sanzienele (this is the Romanian name of this celebration) has some similarities in common with the Swedish Midsummer holiday.
Legend says that Sanzienele are good fairies and this is a way young woman honor them. In the evening, the young women from the villages gather around a bonfire to dance while wearing long white dresses and wild flowers crowns on their heads.
It is believed to be a connection between our world and the one of spirits during this night, when magic things can happen, especially love spells.
In some regions of the country, young unmarried women put lady bedstraw flowers under their pillow the night before Sanziene in order to dream of their future husband.