Romanian traditions on the Beheading of St. John the Baptist

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The Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches celebrate the Beheading of St. John the Baptist on August 29. The feast represents the last great holiday of the religious year that is ending on August 31.

Besides being a day of obligation, August 29 is famous in the Romanian folk tradition for several customs.

Therefore, one cannot use the knife but have to cut all food with the hands. The tradition also ban people from cutting and eating round fruit and vegetables. For instance, one cannot eat watermelon on this day, for it hints to the head of the saint.

Also on this holiday people are banned from drinking red wine, for it represents the blood of John the Baptist. Other custom says one is not allowed to eat cabbage either, for it is said that the saint had his head cut seven times on a cabbage and each time he came back to life.

Another folk custom is to fast “from cross to cross”, meaning one have to fast for two weeks. The fast was intended to clean all those who committed crimes and other serious sins. Those who used to fast this way usually ate only wheat and corn breads. Others say that one is allowed to eat only grapes and eat water on this day.

At the same time, parties or other joyful events are not allowed, as the day is considered a feast for meditation and correction of the mistakes.

Another superstition says that it’s not such a good idea to sweep today, as the noise is disturbing the dead ones. Instead, the spirits of the dead can be improved if you give alms to the poor.

However, these customs have nothing to do with the Holy Writ or to the Orthodox traditions, says.

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