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March 4, 2021

Saint Andrew – a Romanian Halloween

November 30 is one of the most important Romanian holidays, which is connected more to pagan beliefs than to Christian elements. It is the day Romanians celebrate Saint Andrew (Andrei in Romanian), the apostle who Christianised the local people and the protector of Romania. There are many traditions without religious meaning connected to this day, some of them having their origin in the Roman celebrations of Saturn. The Dacian New Year festivities took place from November 14 until December 7, this was the interval when the old year was cast away and the New Year would be greeted. In folk beliefs, Saint Andrew is seen as an old man, an impersonation of the Sun. People in the countryside believe that, judging by the weather on Saint Andrew, they can predict if winter is going to be long and frosty.
The most spectacular tradition is however connected to St. Andrew’s Night, which is November 29, or the “night of the undead” as they call it. Romanians believe that during the night, vampires and “strigoi” (the undead) are coming out to fight and dance at the crossroads or near abandoned houses. In some villages young people gather at a common location to celebrate the occasion by “guarding the garlic.” They prepare their location grazing all access windows and doors with garlic. Each young girl is required to bring three cloves of garlic along. These are put together in a pot, and are guarded by the oldest woman in the house at candlelight. At dusk, the young folk take the pot of garlic outside and dance around it. The garlic is then split between the participants, and becomes a “sacred symbol” that will guard families against illness or spells.

There are a number of other interesting beliefs and superstitions. For example, they say that people who work on St. Andrew’s Day may be unlucky throughout the upcoming year. They also believe that during St. Andrew’s Night animals speak with human voices. The night of Saint Andrew is also believed to have premonitory value, as, on this night, young women can find their future husband, or at least they can “see” them. In some parts of Romania, young girls go to a fountain with a candle and look inside – they will see the faces of their future husbands reflected in the water inside. To dream the future husbands, girls put 41 grains of wheat each under their pillows. If they dream that the wheat is stolen, they will get married soon.

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