Common belief on Epiphany Day in Romania
The Epiphany Day is one of the most important religious holidays both for Orthodox and Catholic Christians. Romanian Christians celebrate the Epiphany, ‘Boboteaza’ on January 6, the day Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.
According to the Romanian customs, priests are going house by house with the holy cross, splashing the children, the fountains, the households, the trees with holly water to chase away the evil spirits. This holly water, called ‘Aghiasma’ in Romanian is said to have miraculous powers and to protect people from diseases and evil things; it also cures the intemperance or infertility.
The Orthodox Church also performs the Great Blessing of Waters on Epiphany Day, with the priest going near water where he throws a cross. Several men are jumping in the cold water to bring the cross back and the one who makes it first and brings it ashore receive the priest’s blessing and is considered to be lucky all year long.
In the past, the man who would find the cross first and brought it ashore used to receive gifts from the country’s ruler and was honored by the rest of the people.
The day marking Jesus’ baptism in Romania also encompasses, besides Blessing of Waters ritual, several folk traditions. In some regions people go caroling, other people still practice incantations or make predictions about the New Year. If men are competing to swim and fetch the cross that the priest is throwing into the cold water, unmarried girls put basil under their sleeping pillows in order to dream about their chosen men.
According to folk tradition, if the weather is fine on the Epiphany Day, the year will be rich in bread and fish.
One also says that if in the morning on Epiphany’s Eve, trees are full of hoarfrost, then they will be rich in fruits. Another folk superstition reveals that animals in the stable are talking about the places with hidden treasures at midnight to the Epiphany Day.
On Saint John the Baptist Day on January 7 another Romanian tradition is celebrated, preserved particularly in Transylvania and Bukovina – “Udatul Ionilor/ Johns’ Wetting”. In Bukovina, the people named John are usually throwing parties with fiddlers on their name day and their gates are adorned with fir trees. In Transylvania, people named John are taken with pomp through the village up to the river where they are baptized or purged.
Epiphany Day and Saint John celebrated on January 7 are ending the winter celebrations dedicated to Jesus’ birth.