Easter is just around the corner. Now I don't know what's happening in your country - I have always celebrated this holiday at home with the loved ones. What I can tell you is about us. We eat. And eat. And again.... we eat! And when we stop eating, we also have some other nice customs, worth to be lived someday by anyone who hasn't tried the Romanian way of life yet! Here they are...
On the evening before Easter, we tend to remember there is a greater power above us. Despite the Romanian church being a little controversial nowadays, it is still our favorite place to mark the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are so many churches in Romania, that we all 20 millions surely have one in the vicinity of our home.
So we grab a candle and spend some time around midnight in front of our church, together with other few hundreds of neighbours. At midnight precisely, we light up the candle, presumably with holy light coming straight from Jerusalem. We chant a few holy songs and go back home, making sure our candle doesn't turn off until we enter our house.
Right after midnight when we arrive home, basically anything can happen! This one you know - we shouldn't eat animal products for 40 days before Easter. Truth be told, fewer of us still resist that long, but what we all do is thoroughly preserve the other side of the story. Which is to recuperate from all that time of humbleness and restraints ?! So, for the next two or three days, hell is unleashed upon our supposedly empty stomachs...
First things first - knocking those carefully painted eggs. Most of them are red (signifying Jesus Christ's blood), but each egg basket contains every color you can think of. What we have also done here in Romania is we've created a true art from this custom! We... I mean they, because "we" got so lazy lately that "we" run to the closest supermarket and buy eggs already painted by others...
Luckily there are still plenty of wonderful people who keep this tradition alive. The deeper you go in the countryside, the more motifs you will find on a decorated egg. Up north in Bukovina, there is even an interesting museum dedicated to the complexity of this beautiful tradition we have here for Easter. Just imagine yourself gazing at an egg from every possible angle - have you ever thought of that? In Romania, it is worthy to do that!
Coming back to knocking, it is a perfect moment to express our competitive side, our knowledge to choose the most resistent egg! In our family, at every meal there is a winner and several loosers, and I know we are not a singular case. This doesn't mean that the winner doesn't get the luxury to have an egg, au contraire... Everyone is knocking with everyone, so we all eat at least two or three eggs per meal, just to start things off as an appetizer for what's next...
Wait, did I say Sunday? You could easily replace it with Monday or even Tuesday... And lunch with dinner... Regardless where you are in Romania, you are in for a special treat! It is mandatory for any decent table in Romania to at least contain the following:
Lamb cooked in several forms - soup, roast or "drob". You know lamb meat is pretty heavy, so we don't get to eat it too often during one year. But for Easter, we forget about pork, chicken, fish or turkey, and lamb gets to be the star! If you wish to try drob at home, here's a good recipe, without the main ingredient unfortunately - the Romanian touch
Photo source: gandul.info
Pasca - a delicious round bread, filled with sweet cheese, eggs, raisins, sometimes rum, cinnamon or cream. Pasca tastes differently in every house, so it is hard to extract a general recipe. You can try this one for a genuine Romanian dessert at your next Easter meal!
Cozonac - there is no excuse not to finish off your meal with at least one slice of cozonac! I don't care if you are already full, you need to open a new drawer in your stomach, or your Romanian hosts will get offended! They have put their heart and soul into preparing it, and it's your personal problem you couldn't resist to an extra egg, a third piece of drob or another plate of delicious homemade potatoes!
Enough with so much eating! Let's have a look at my favorite year-long traditions which you can spot on the streets of Romania if you are here around Easter:
In Transylvania and sometimes in Bukovina too, on Monday morning, boys travel on the streets carrying buckets filled with water, go to the houses of unmarried girls and "wet" them. In some other places, they stay hidden waiting for girls to come out of the house, grab them and throw them in the river... Even today they still do that as a perfect reason for fun or an impromptu party.
Photo source: Trilulilu
Also, in some places in Bukovina, on Easter Day, boys wearing traditional clothes travel on the streets, going to girls' houses and exchanging eggs.
Every Orthodox Church in Romania has a wooden piece called "toaca", necessary for chasing away bad spirits. Some of the villages in the Apuseni Mountains organize contests between two teams of boys, with the purpose of guarding/stealing this precious piece of wood. Whoever looses has to throw a big party for everyone, so in the end, everyone wins!
In Maramures, on Sunday morning, you can see children walking on the streets, singing and knocking at every door to announce the Resurrection. They are happily received inside and gifted with red eggs.
Somewhere in Gorj, on Sunday morning, villagers around Jales (Sohodol) River throw themselves in the water in order to get/stay healthy.
Now, for the ending, a few valuable pieces of advice from the wisdom of our beloved Romanian folk!
1. Go shopping / sew before Easter and wear your new clothes starting right before Easter midnight! You wil enjoy prosperity for the following year.
2. On Good Friday, do not clean, paint eggs or work on anything - it's a sin and brings bad luck!
3. On the Easter morning, wash your face in a water bowl filled with a red egg, a silver coin and some basil! Thus you'll stay healthy all year!
4. When people come to your house, make a men enter first! You will again stay lucky until next Easter!
5. If you are the head of your family, you are supposed to be the first to knock a red egg. You have to slice it and give a piece to the whole family, so that you always stick together!
6. Do not pour salt on the Easter egg, or else your hands will sweat in the following summer!
7. Keep a red egg 40 days after Easter! If it won't damage, you will get lucky for the rest of the year!
and, last but not least:
8. Never sleep on the Easter Day! You will have bad luck if you fall asleep just for one second... Why not party all day long with your family and friends?
With that being said, I wish you all the happiest Easter ever! May the best egg win and the extra weight dissapear!
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