Romanian Easter Traditions – part 1

That time of year is nearly here. We can smell the sweet perfume of blooming trees, spring flowers, we can see the grass grow and we can hear the birds sing, and after a month of fasting, boy do those birds look tasty. We are nearing the end of the Easter fasting and the start of the Easter feast, and so many more things to do. Spring is the season of rebirth, of cleanliness, snow melting and washing away the filth of the earth, and Easter underlining this rebirth idea, and washing away the sins of the past year. Christian orthodox and Catholics in Romania feast because Easter is just as important to us as Christmas, we honor the greatest sacrifice of Jesus Christ by cleansing our bodies, confession, and communion. But I hunch that the fasting has something to do with us eating all that pork all winter.

There are many traditions and customs in Romania that followed to the letter by Christians, mostly the elderly. One of my favorite and one that I learned as I grew up was painting boiled eggs. We paint them red usually but it’s ok to try other colors, or even patterns. Today you can buy paint to color the eggs, but I grew up with eggs that were boiled with onion peels that would make them a brownish shade of red, you could even add a pattern if you put dried flowers or small leafs on them, then put them in a sock and boil them like that. When they are ready, you would take them out of the sock and take the leaf off and that spot would remain white while the rest of the egg would be colored.

romanian easter traditionsIn some areas of Romania painting eggs has become a craft, an art I might say. It is a really delicate procedure that takes time and patience. The craftsman would wash the eggs and then with a stick that has a needle in it, they will dip the needle in molted wax and trace patterns on the egg. Adding layers to create the pattern, not two alike, and then dipping the egg in a primer color, adding another layer, dipping it in a darker color and so on. After the color has dried, you put the egg over some heat and wipe off the melting wax and you can see the pattern under it. At the end there are other fine lines traced and as a finishing touch, the eggs are polished with grease or oil. You can find such eggs in souvenir shops, but this eggs don’t have any whites or yokes inside. Usually the eggs that are not meant for eating will have a small opening drilled in the bottom and all the liquid inside will be drained with a syringe and then washed with water.

The greatest joy for kids on Easter is smashing this eggs, something that they regard as a contest. This tradition is done in pairs of two. There is the one that will do the hitting and the one that will receive the blow. The eggs are held point up, the hitter will say “Christ has come back to life”, and the receiver will say “Indeed he came back to life”, and the hitter will try to smash the top of the receiver’s egg. Whoever smashes the opponent’s egg has won this round. But then round 2 is with the bottoms of the eggs up, the roles will switch and if both kids have a win then they each eat their own egg, but if we have two wins on one side then the victor will claim his opponent’s egg. Kids will look to win as many eggs as possible, although they rarely eat even half of them. You will know Easter is here when the streets are covered in a rainbow of painted egg shells.

Happy Easter Everyone!

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