Orthodox Easter traditions in Romania

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Easter, marking Jesus’ resurrection from death, is a major celebration in Romania, where a vast majority of Orthodox Christians reside. Around 86 % out of roughly 19 million people of Romanian population is Christian Orthodox.

Easter is a public holiday in Romania, with day offs for the population, and schools and most businesses closed.

Churches across Romania officiate special Easter services, while people usually hold family Easter dinners with special Easter dishes. Meals that are commonly on every Romanian’s Easter table are the painted eggs, lamb tripe, ‘pasca’ and cake (cozonac).

Among the usual Easter traditions in Romania, there is one of having the house cleaned and all the ritual foods ready before Easter.

The cleaning usually starts on Great Thursday, as well as the egg painting. Romanians call the painted and decorated eggs “oua incondeiate”. It is customary to knock each other’s eggs during Easter, and it is believed that people who knock each other’s eggs will see each other again after death.

Initially the eggs were painted only in red, which symbolises Jesus’ blood when he was crucified, with decorative motifs like the cross, the fir or oak leaf, but in modern times people also paint Easter eggs in yellow, green, blue, orange or violet.

In some regions of Romania, particularly in Bukovina, in the north of the country, 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.

Another old folk tradition in Romania was 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 continue the tradition, often purchasing new clothes on Easter.

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. Easter candles that are used at a church mass/service are kept afterwards because they symbolize protection.

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’.

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