Easter in Bucovina

 

Friday night, I went to an evening service at my church.  It was lovely.  Across the street is an old Orthodox Church.  Outside of it were 2 charter buses and a courtyard full of people.  The bells were ringing and loud speakers broadcasted the chants of the Orthodox priests.  I live between another Orthodox Church and a monastery.  Those bells were ringing too and the chants were also broadcasted.  I can’t help but think …is this what it sounds like on the street for a call to pray in Islamic communities?  Regardless, the night air mixed with bells and chants was hauntingly beautiful. 

Saturday night, the church again were full.  At midnight, while in bed, I heard the bells ring at the churches.  What a wonderful call. 

Sunday morning, I went to church and it was great!  The children sang and recited verses;  its universal…kids are way too cute! The choir sang three songs.  A few families invited me to their homes for dinner and one family almost kidnapped me off the street, until I promised them I had a place to go for Easter dinner.  I went to my friend’s home on the farm.  We ate soup, traditional sarmale (cabbage rolls) and roasted porc, potato salad, bread, and a lovely cake with sour cherries.  We had homemade juice to drink. 

The weather report had said there would be rain and possibly snow for Easter, but fortunately the weather forecast here is just a reliable as in the US and it was bright and sunny all day!  

The following is an article my friend found about more Easter traditions in Romania. Enjoy! 

Romanian History & Traditions 

Easter is the most important celebration of the Romanian people and it is preceded by numerous preparations and rituals. 

It’s a must for the people to have a clean house and have all the ritual foods ready. This is why the cleaning starts on Great Thursday. Men, who are usually working in the field or at the forest, will remain home starting with this day and will take out the thrash, fix the fence, cut wood, bring water, butcher the lambs. Women are the ones that paint and decorate the eggs, do the laundry and generally clean the house. 

Because it’s a good thing to have a new piece of clothing on the Easter, girls and young wives start to sew shirts for them and also for their parents, brothers, husbands or children, about two weeks in advance. 

The eggs are painted starting with Thursday. Initially the only accepted color was red, but in time other colors were also applied – yellow, green, blue and even black. In the villages the paint is still obtained from plants. 

The eggs are usually first painted yellow, because the other colors will look better when applied over it. Blue painted eggs are an exception. 

In Banat, the first painted egg is called a „try”. In the Easter morning it’s shared between the children residing in that house. The traditional colors are yellow, red, green and blue.The black eggs remind us of the Jesus’ sufferings on the cross. 

 The most interesting traditional eggs are the decorated eggs. Special instruments are used for decorating them.

The most used decorative motifs for these eggs are: the lost path (on which the souls of the dead walk toward the judgment), the cross, the fir or oak leaf. In Walachia the saw and the plough are also drawn and in Moldavia the lightning and the fork. Various plants, animals and kinds of crosses are also drawn.

 

According to the Romanian tradition, if on Saturday before the Easter you place an egg (on which you have drawn something every day, beginning with the middle of the Fast) on a garbage dump, you’ll see an animal (usually a dog) trying to take that egg. You shouldn’t let it take it, as it will return for it and grant you any wish you have.

“Pasca”, a special Easter cake, is baked on Great Thursday, but especially on Saturday, so it wouldn’t alter until Easter. It has a round shape (reminding little Jesus’ diapers) or a rectangular one (the shape of His grave). In some regions “pasca” is also baked on St. George Day. 

A legend from Bucovina goes that the “pasca” has been done from the times when Jesus was traveling to the world together with his apostles. They remained a night at a peasant house and when they left, he put food in their bags. The apostles asked Jesus when the Easter is and He replied that the Easter would be when they would find corn bread in their bags. Looking in the bags, they noticed the peasant had given them exactly corn bread, so that they knew it was Easter time. 

The shells of the eggs used for the “pasca” are thrown in a river. This action has two explanations. It is believed that the hens are protected this way of the hawks. The major explanation is, however, the ancient belief that the shells are taken by the river to the country of the Good People, announcing them the Easter has came. 

The cakes (called “cozonaci”) have a round or rectangular long shape, symbolizing Jesus’ grave. 

The traditional Easter lamb also symbolizes Jesus. In Banat region, the remains of the sacrificed lamb are buried under an apple or a pear tree, in order that the family should be healthy. 

Saturday night, when all the cleaning and preparations in the house are done, the steak, the pies and the cakes are put on the table, in the “clean room”. 

Before going to the church, people wash themselves in a bowl with water, where red painted eggs and silver and golden coins were also put. They believe that this way they will be as glowing and healthy as the eggs and they will be clean and will have more money, due to the silver and golden coins. 

After they clean and dress the new clothes, the people take a bowl with “pasca”, eggs and steak and go to the church, where the aliments will be sanctified. Only the ill old men and little children remain at home, as it is said that who can go to the church on Easter night, but he doesn’t do it, will get ill. 

A fire is lighted near the church and it will be kept for all the three Easter days. In some regions, when the roosters announce the midnight, the man who watches the fire shoots with his rifle, calling the people to the church. The bells are also ringed at midnight. 

People hold lighted candles during the religious mass and only put them out when they return home, after they enter the house and make crosses. These Easter candles are kept for the times of danger, when they will have a protective function. 

At home, people first taste the anaphora and then sit to the table. They first eat some of the sanctified aliments and only then the rest. In some regions, rabbit or fish meat is first eaten, believing that these animals will confer to the people some of their agility. The shepherds and the other persons who are away from home on Easter day eat willow or apple tree buds instead of anaphora. 

There’s the custom of knocking the eggs. It is believed that those who knock their eggs will see each other on the other world, after death. In the first day of Easter, eggs are only knocked with the top. On Monday they can be knocked top to the bottom and on the next days they can be knocked any way. The first ones to knock their eggs are the parents, one to the other, then the children to the parents and then the other relatives and friends. According to the tradition, the one whose egg cracks first is weaker and he will die quicker. He must give his egg to the winner; otherwise he will eat its egg rotten on the other world. 

Eggs are knocked until the third Easter day, until the “Ispas” or until the “Great Sunday”. 

The most beautiful painted eggs are emptied of their content and used as decorations, being put on a rope and then hanged near the icons or in other places. 

It is supposed that a child born on Easter, at the time when bells ring, will be lucky all his life. 

The man that dies on the Easter day or in the next week is blessed, his soul heading straight to heaven, as the skies are believed to be opened at this time. 

On the Easter day one must not sleep, because it is said that he will be sleepy all year long. Also touching salt directly is not recommended, a belief stating that the hands of the one who does it will transpire during the summer. 

It is said that three candles burn in the sky during the three days of the Easter. 

In some regions (Bucovina, Transylvania), there is a tradition called “the wetting”. On Monday morning, the boys take a bucket of water and go to the houses of the unmarried girls. If they found them sleeping, the boys throw water on them. As it is believed that those girls will marry soon, they reward the boys who had wetted them by giving them the most beautiful decorated eggs and “pasca” or cake. In some places, the boys catch the girls when they go out from the house and take them to the fountain or to the river, where they wet them, even throwing them in the water. 

According to one of the legends, once upon a time a Christian girl was heading toward the market, carrying a basket of eggs, in order to sell them. On her way she met a pagan girl who wanted to buy her eggs, but lacked the appropriate money. The girl asked her to accompany her home, thus being able to pay. On their way the Christian girl tried to convert the pagan to her religion, but she resisted. “I will believe in Christ only if these eggs here will turn red.” To their amazement, that very thing happened and the girls fainted in fear. Some nearby boys noticed them and tried to revive them, splashing the girls with water. Upon their awakening, the girls offered the red eggs to the boys, as a thank you gift. 

On Monday and Tuesday the married couple go to their relatives, bringing them “pasca”, announcing them Christ’s revival. Usually, the younger people go to the older ones. 

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One Response

  1. What a great history lesson! As a Christian I do not want to focus too much on tradition but remember the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and what His resurrection means for me. However, understanding the meaning behind traditions is fascinating.

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