Epiphany, celebrated on January 6, 2023. What customs do Romanians observe
Every year, on January 6, believers celebrate Epiphany, one of the most important holidays of the year, marked with a red cross in the Orthodox Calendar. Below are some of the most popular Epiphany customs in 2023. Along with Saint John the Baptist’s day, celebrated on January 7, Epiphany, or the Baptism of the Lord, marks the end of the 12-day period of winter holidays, which begin on Christmas Eve. On this holy day, Catholics and Orthodox alike observe several folk traditions.
Known as the Baptism of the Lord, Epiphany commemorates the moment when Jesus Christ, at the age of 30, was baptized by Saint John the Baptist in the Jordan River. The Evangelist Matthew says that Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River, where John the Baptist was baptizing, asking to be baptized as well. John said to him: “I need to be baptized by you and you come to me“, and when Jesus answered that it was appropriate, he was finally baptized by John. Because the Baptism of the Lord is also called the Appearance of the Lord, it is good to know, says father Ilie Cleopa, that there are two appearances of the Lord in this world. One is the present one, which was fulfilled at Baptism. The second is that which is to come and which will be done with great glory, at the end of the world.
On Epiphany Eve, priests go to the houses of the faithful to bring them, by sprinkling holy water, the blessing of the Holy Trinity. Epiphany (January 6) and Saint John (January 7) almost form one and the same celebration. Eve, that is, January 5, is a day of black fasting, just like Christmas Eve and Good Friday before Easter. On Epiphany and Saint John, depending on each area of the country, carols are sung, charms are made, the future is predicted in the new year, girls put basil under their pillow to dream of their promised one, and men swim in a race to retrieve the thrown cross of priest in water.
At Epiphany all waters are sanctified. The priest goes to a water where he will throw a cross, several men jump into the water to bring it back, and the one who manages to reach it first receives the priest’s blessing and is considered to be lucky for the whole year. In ancient times, the one who first found the cross and brought it to the shore also received gifts from the ruler of the country and was held in great honor by the others.
Women’s iordanit is another custom. In the past, in the villages in the north of the country, women gathered in large groups at someone’s house and brought food and drink. After eating, they sang and played all night. In the morning, they would go out on the street and pick up the men who happened to appear on the road, take them by force to the river, threatening to throw them into the water. In some regions, the integration of young wives into the community of married women took place by watering them with water from a well or a river.
According to tradition, on Epiphany night, young girls dream of their teddy bear. They tie a red silk thread on the ring and put a sprig of basil under the pillow. Girls who fall on the ice on Epiphany Day can be sure to get married that year, says popular tradition.
Another custom that is observed on January 6, Epiphany, in Romanian homes is a meal similar to the one on Christmas Eve. Thus, hay is placed under the tablecloth, and a lump of salt is placed on each corner of it. Then, 12 dishes are placed on the table: coliva, boiled beans, stewed plums, sarmales filled with croup, borscht of “burekiuşe” or “eruciušele baba” (white beans with mushrooms filled with mushrooms), fish borscht, fish fried, Lenten pies filled with minced sour cabbage, poppy seed pies.
No one touches the dishes until the priest arrives with Jordan or Chiralesa, to consecrate the meal. “Chiralesa” comes from Neo-Greek and means “Lord, have mercy!” There is a belief that by shouting “Chiralesa”, people gain strength, all evils flee and the year will be clean until Saint Andrew (November 30).
After consecrating the food, part of the food is given to the animals in the household, so that they are fertile and protected from diseases. Omens It is believed that, if on the morning of the Epiphany, the trees are loaded with promoroaca, they will bear rich fruit. It is also believed that the animals in the barn talk at midnight on Epiphany about the places where the treasures are hidden. Tradition also says that no laundry is done on Epiphany. On this day, quarrels in the house are forbidden and nothing is given on loan.