Romanians pay close attention to the holy days surrounding Easter, making the celebration an extended one that marks a period of springtime and renewal.
The Lent Fast
Because of the heavy religious significance of Easter (Paste), many Romanians choose to take part in the Lent fast in the six weeks preceding the holiday. During this time, many people choose to eat no meat and abstain from things like tobacco or alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, Romanian Orthodox followers see this more as a celebration or love of God rather than being a form of penitence.
Good Thursday is the traditional day for painting eggs in the Romanian traditional manner. In the past, red eggs were the norm due to the color’s association with Christ’s blood.
While many countries involve painted eggs in their Easter rituals, the practice is turned into an art form in Romania. The eggs are painted with very intricate designs, including floral and geometrical motifs that are often representative of a person’s home town or region. Several museums in Romania have exhibitions of the highest quality eggs, some of which are true works of art. For children in Romania, the eggs have another purpose as well. A common game on Easter Day, not only for children, is to tap eggs with each other to see which one has the strongest shell.
Taking the Light
On the Saturday before Easter Sunday, there is a tradition in Romania that few people miss each year. At precisely the hour of midnight, Romanians go to their local church to take part in the annual Easter vigil. With each person holding an unlit candle, the priest lights the first candle and everyone works together to 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.
What to Say
Even after Easter is over, there are some words that can be heard on the streets for weeks to come. When a person sees a friend or family for the first time after Easter has passed, the normal introduction is skipped and the first person says, “Cristos a inviat (Christ has risen).” The second person responds by saying, “Adevarat a inviat (Indeed, he has risen).” This verbal exchange is very much part of the celebration and is a way for people to remind each other of the importance of Easter even after the holiday is over.
Three Days of Easter
Traditions surrounding Easter are complex. Clean clothing is worn and a bath of water, containing a red Easter egg and a coin, is provided for washing. Easter foods, placed on a table the night before, may be taken to church to be blessed.
An Easter midnight church service is held, much like some churches do for Christmas. The church’s lights are dimmed and the candlelight, borne by the priest, is passed among the members of the congregation, who hold unlit candles. These candles may be taken home as a reminder of the service and to spread the holiness of the candles to their own homes. Some Romanians also light candles at the graves of family members.
Food features strongly in the Romanian Easter tradition. Pasca, the traditional Easter cake, which may have been prepared on the Thursday or Saturday before and blessed at the church, is a main focus—this cake is made with dough, cheese, and raisins. Lamb, symbolizing Christ, is widely served, along with a Romanian version of haggis made with organ meats. Cheese, vegetables, sweet bread, and of course eggs are also important components of Easter Sunday dinner.