April break is finally here! While some are going on vacations, many are staying at home to spend Easter with their families.
Easter is a significant celebration in Romania, with about 81% of the population being Orthodox Christians. For those who are not familiar with the traditions, here is everything you should know about how Romanians celebrate their Easter.
Children make “red eggs” with their mothers (and sometimes grandmothers) on Good Friday.
Fasting, Holy Week and Good Friday
Typically, Eastern Orthodox believers “fast” for about six weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. During this period of time, they must refrain from eating any animal products (meat, dairy, animal fats) to purify their spirits and commit to praying. There are exceptions for other religious events such as Florii (Palm Sunday in English), which allows the consumption of fish.
Image Source: Crestin Ortodox
People practice denii by passing under the table three times.
Holy Week – or Săptămâna Patimilor in Romanian – falls between the 14th and 20th of April this year. Throughout the week, the church holds special services called denii – where people bring flowers and walk under the table in the middle of the church three times. This is meant to symbolize the death and resurrection of Christ. In the afternoon, they recreate the procession that Jesus had to go through before he was put on the cross.
Traditionally, people don’t listen to music on Good Friday in order to concentrate on mourning. However, this isn’t common today as music can still be heard on the radio.
It is said that Jesus resurrected at midnight on Holy Saturday. Because of this, many Orthodox Christians travel to Jerusalem, where Jesus is said to be buried. The Israeli tourism ministry expects a 15% rise in tourists for the Easter holidays compared to last year. In fact, their spokeswoman said that they estimate that around 80,000 Christians from around the world will arrive for Holy Week this year.
In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, there are candles lit with “holy fire” placed around the tomb of Jesus. Every year, the Romanian head of the Church takes this fire from Jerusalem and brings it back to Romania. Once he arrives, he shares the fire with priests from throughout the country to place it inside their churches.
The lighting of the Holy Fire at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
On the morning of Easter Sunday, which falls on the 28th of April this year, children open up their presents from the Easter bunny. Afterwards, they take a bath in a tub with a silver coin and a red egg inside it. The red egg is supposed to give the child beauty, while the silver coin is there for health.
Romanians eat a lot during Easter, just like on any other religious holiday. Easter lunch is a meal to thank God that you are healthy and grateful for your family. Various forms of lamb are served at the table, such as roast or drob (an Easter-specific dish made with herbs, similar to Scottish haggis). The lamb symbolizes the Savior Jesus, who sacrificed himself to save mankind.
Image Source: Imperial Transilvania
Lamb drob, a popular Romanian Easter dish.
People also eat red-dyed eggs as a side dish. When Virgin Mary went to pay her respects to her dead son, she placed a basket with eggs under the cross. Jesus’ blood dropped on the eggs and turned them red, which was the start of this tradition. Although many people nowadays dye their eggs in brighter colors, most religious Romanians only make red eggs.
Before eating the eggs, people hit their egg against someone else’s and shout “Hristos
Image Source: Staful Parintilor
Cozonac, red eggs, and wine served at lunch.
For dessert, people have cozonac – a type sponge cake made with Turkish delights, cocoa powder, and sometimes raisins. It is similar to a Ukrainian Easter bread called pasca, but sweeter in taste.
After lunch, some visit the cemetery to pay respect to their ancestors and loved ones who are no longer with them.
Tell us: What are your Easter traditions? What other religious holidays do you celebrate in your culture? Share with us by commenting below.