Romanian people, as you may already know, are in majority Orthodox and Easter is one of the most important holidays of the year. Because of this, there are a multitude of colourful and interesting traditions surrounding this period. It is a real journey going into the depths of how people have discovered this celebration, hundreds of years ago and how the people today understand these customs and superstitions. It is important to remember that, beyond all traditions, Easter is a time of going back to family, to finding hope and seeing the light in spite of the hardship.
The evening before Easter
In the evening before this special event, people go to churches to attend the ceremony. They carry a candle because at midnight, the priest will come out of the church with the „resurrection light” and will give it to the people. The recognition of Jesus’s resurrection is marked by the words of the priest ‘Christ has risen!’ and the crowd answers ‘Truly, he has risen!’ These exclamations will be used as forms of greeting for the following days. Also, some of them take baskets that they had filled with food they cooked in the previous days. Those who bring the baskets attend the whole ceremony that usually lasts till morning. The reason why they do this is because, at the end of the ceremony, the priest is going to bless the food by sprinkling it with holy water.
One of the key elements of any holiday is... you guessed it, food. Well for Easter, Romanians prepare a special meal which consists of various recipes. One of them would be the boiled-painted eggs. They were originally painted in red to symbolize the blood of Jesus Christ, but nowadays you can find them in any color. As of meat recipes, the lamb is the main element. So you may find lamb steak, soup and also “drob” which is a specific Easter recipe that has as main ingredients lamb organs. And of course we cannot miss the most popular dishes “sarmale” and “boeuf salad”. For dessert, there is “pasca” which is a cake made out of cheese and “cozonac”, a sweet bread, usually filled with walnuts.
An interesting fact about egg painting would be that in some regions of Romania, but mostly in Bucovina, the painting of eggs’ shells became a real art that has been spread from generation to generation. The colors and the symbols that are used to decorate the eggs have different meanings, for instance, red stands for blood, sun and love, black means eternity and yellow light or youth; the vertical lines symbolize life and the horizontal ones mean death.
Regardless of one’s religiosity, this holiday is important because it does an extraordinary thing, and that is: bringing people together. Most of them decide to spend Easter with their families, visit some old friends or relatives. Having everyone you love at one table, knocking eggs together end-to-end while one says “Christ has risen” and another responds “Truly, he has risen” and cherish this time without having to worry about a thing, is such a wonderful moment that brings light and meaning into our lives.
When it comes to traditions and superstitions, the story goes a long way back in time and proves that beyond our nature, we always turn back to things and customs that make us feel safe or blessed. Depending on the region of Romania, the customs may vary and the symbolistic they provide may change from person to person, but there are few of them which are taken into consideration by everyone.
Here we have a lot to pick from, some being full of symbols, some being funny and some being completely confusing:
- On Easter morning is advised to wash your face with water poured in a new cup, where you’ve also put both a red and a white egg, a coin (traditionally silver, but any will do) and one grass tread; These 3 things symbolize health, prosperity and progress.
- Remember what we’ve said above about the “resurrection light”? Well… the candle that you use to “take” the light that night will be kept in the home and litten in case of trouble.
- Nothing is random during these days, the Easter Dinner included. First, you have to eat an egg. This will bring health for the whole year. Then you have to eat fish, to be as fast and energetic and at the end bird, so you can be as “light” as one.
- It is also advised not to eat your egg with salt on the first Easter day or you will sweat all year.
- In the old-time, the villagers would bring their roosters to the Resurrection ceremony. It was said that the first that will “sing” will bring good luck to its owner for the rest of the year. At the end of the ceremony, the roosters were donated to the poor.
- Also, you must wear new clothes to the ceremony. This has the role of purification.
- Another old belief is that during the Easter day the skies open and the souls of the dead can visit their relatives and bless them.
- Also, you must be careful who you “knock” the eggs with because you will meet them in the afterlife also.
- And the last one, if you happen to be born on Easter day, it is said you will have a lot of good luck and a fulfilling life.
As you can see Orthodox Easter is more than a simple holiday. It’s a period of the year when families get together and people look to the future in a brighter light. It brings hope to some and is a new start for many while being surrounded of course by symbolism and ancient traditions.