Easter traditions in Romania are unique.
Easter is one of the most important celebrations of Christianity, commemorating the moment when Jesus resurrected. Romanians start preparing for this special day long before the day itself, and Postul Pastelui (Fasting) lasts for 48 days. During this Fasting period we pray and go to church, while some of us give up meat, eggs, or dairy products. It’s a ritual of purification for both the body and soul. Then, on the night before Easter Romanians attend the special church service. It is a very solemn ritual that starts at midnight when, people are gathered inside and outside the church, waiting for the priests to bring out the Holy Light. After this moment, all the people gathered pass the light from one another, holding their candles and walking back home. It is of great significance to bring the Holly light home so to have piece and quiet all year round.
In our country, we have several symbols related to Easter. One of them is the Easter egg. It represents Jesus rising from the grave and coming back to life – just as the chicken comes out of the egg. So why do we paint the Easter eggs? It is said that when the Virgin Mary came to cry for her crucified son, she placed a basket of eggs under the Cross. The eggs turned red as a symbol of the blood from Jesus' wounds. At first, the eggs were painted only in red, but later we started painting them in many colours, including green, yellow, orange, blue, and for the kids' fun we add stickers.
The most beautiful Easter eggs are made in a magical region of Romania called Bucovina. The eggs made here are called “oua incondeiate” (painted eggs). After painting the egg, the technique is to keep the background color of the egg white or red and draw beautiful patterns on the eggshell with melted beeswax. The procedure is very demanding and requires much patience and skill. The Romanian local women of Bucovina are renowned artists who seem to posses extraordinary skills passed from one generation to another, because only talent can turn a simple egg into such an amazing piece of art. You can admire these masterpieces in the “Village Museum” in Bucharest, and better still, if you are curious, you can even try to practise this ancient technique with some help from the local artisans.
On Easter morning we wash our faces with water from a bowl , into which we put a red egg and a coin. It is said that if you wash your face with this water, you will be healthy and beautiful – just like an Easter egg. Another interesting tradition is that we crack the eggs saying these words: "Jesus has resurrected! Indeed Jesus has resurrected!" It is always fun to crack the shell of the other person's painted egg.
The Easter meal contains red eggs, lamb, cheese, lots of vegetables, and the traditional Romanian cake of this celebration – “pasca” – which is a type of sponge cake filled with cheese, eggs and raisins. A real feast that lasts no more and no less than three days, in which family members and friends, eat and drink and visit one another.
It is fashionable nowadays to import traditions from other cultures, and Easter is no exception. We have adopted the Western symbol of Easter – the Easter Bunny – and children are now very happy to receive gifts both from Santa Claus at Christmas and from the Easter Bunny at Easter. But if you want to celebrate Easter celebration the true Romanian way, and I recommend you to do that, just remember that we are right here, in Eastern Europe, a country with Roman and Geto-Dacians ancestors, at the Black Sea, and waiting to share our ancient and original customs and traditions with you.
The photo is from a local newspaper, Cluj county, Romania.