The Easter celebration is the most important religious celebration in Romania, marked this year both by Orthodox and Catholic believers on the same day, on April 16.
Romania is inhabited by a vast majority of Orthodox Christians. Around 86 per cent out of 20 million people of Romanian population is Christian Orthodox. However, there is also a significant community of Roman-Catholic, Greek-Catholic and Protestant believes. Catholics in Romania take 7.6 per cent, while Protestants (Reformed, Pentecostal, Baptist, Adventist, Unitarian, Lutheran and other Neo-protestant) – 6.2 per cent.
In the Orthodox faith, one of the mandatory customs on Easter is that everyone must have a clean house and all the ritual foods ready before Easter. This is why the cleaning starts on Great Thursday. Men, who are usually working, 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 Easter day, girls and young wives start to sew shirts for them and also for their parents, brothers, husbands or children, with about two weeks in advance. Nowadays people use to buy the clothes.
In some parts of Romania, mainly in Bukovina, the north part, there is a tradition of coloring eggs using different geometrical and floral motifs. The process involves various paints and wax. The egg painting ritual is still preserved, but only a few people know the art of decorating the eggs. The eggs are painted starting on Thursday. Initially the only accepted color was red, but other colors were also permitted: yellow, green, blue and even black. In some villages the paint is still obtained from plants.
On the Saturday before Easter Sunday, there is a tradition in Romania that few people miss each year. At midnight, Romanians go to their local church to take light from God. The priest lights the first candle and everyone make sure that every candle is lit. This is seen as symbolizing the act of taking the light from God and is an essential part of any Romanian Easter celebration.
After the midnight mass service the family gathers for the first Easter meal. On the first day of Easter, there is customary for the whole family to wash in a bowl were they put red eggs and silver or gold money. The one who washes the last gets all the money. They believe the custom will make everybody healthy and prosperous.
In Transylvania there are some specific traditions, one of which, on the second day of Easter is splashing girls and women. The purpose is that they remain beautiful throughout the year. The groups of boys wander the village until late at night, thus no girl will remain ‘unsplashed’.
Easter meals that are permanently on every Romanian’s Easter table are the red eggs, lamb tripe, ‘pasca’ and cake (cozonac).
A week after Easter Sunday, on the first Monday, a part of Orthodox Christians celebrate Pastele Blajinilor. This feast is also called Prohoadele, Easter Monday or the Dead’s Monday and is dedicated to the spirits.
The Catholic Lent Fast is different from the Orthodox one as Catholics can eat anything but meat.
Christians are communicated with ostie (non-proofing bread) and they practice procession (procesiunea) meaning the encirclement of the church together with the priests. On Saturday, before the Resurrection, people take their baskets with painted eggs (preferable red), cake (cozonac), lamb meet and wine to be hallowed.
On Sunday morning, before breakfast, all family members wash their faces with water from a bowl in which they put a red egg and some money, symbols of health and wealth.
The most famous Catholic Easter tradition in our country is spraying, a habit that comes from Germany. First, spraying was made with water, but nowadays they use perfume; water sprinkle symbolizes purification. The custom originated in pre-Christian period is the symbol of life and fertility, and was practiced by several Germanic peoples.
In Transylvania, spraying was made even in noblemen’ families up to the end of 19th century, after which tradition was kept only in rural areas. For spraying, nowadays people use perfume instead of water. The tradition is that boys go to girls’ homes where they ask their parents for permission to ‘wet’ the girls, while they say a poem: I was in a green forest; I saw a violet blue, standing to fade. Do I have permission to spray it? Young men are rewarded with red eggs, wine and cakes.
In Mures, the third Easter day, after women are sprayed, the tradition tells that boys, too get to be sprinkled. They only get away if the weather is too cold.
Easter sprinkle custom was brought to Transylvania during the middle Ages by Saxons from Sibiu County.
Similar to Orthodox traditions, Catholics too gift away painted eggs or they tap the eggs to see which one has the strongest shell. The predominantly color for Easter eggs is red, but other colors like yellow, green or blue are also used.
In other areas in Transylvania, on Saturday, boys adorn fir trees with colored ribbons and by night they get into young unmarried girls’ yards and they hang trees to the door.
The most beautiful girls in the village get dozens of branches. Because the young girls stay up all night watching, they will know for sure who to reward the first or the second day of Easter.