Epiphany and its ancestral customs in Romania

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The Epiphany Day is one of the most important holidays both for Orthodox and Catholic Christians. Romanian Christians celebrate the Epiphany, ‘Boboteaza’ in Romania, on January 6, the day Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

The priest wander from house to house, in the villages, with the holy cross and splashes with holly water the children, the fountains, the households, the trees in order 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, children from the evil eye; 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 old times’ Romania, the man who found 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 comprises, besides Blessing of Waters ritual, several folk customs. 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 throws 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.

You shouldn’t do the laundry on the Epiphany Day as all the waters are blessed. Old people believe the holly water has miraculous powers and it never alters. They say whoever throws himseld in the water on the Epiphany day, he will never go ill.

Epiphany Day and Saint John celebrated on January 7 are ending the winter celebrations dedicated to Jesus’ birth.

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