Easter in Romania is an important holiday. Romanians, the majority of whom adhere to Orthodox Christianity, place significance on this holiday more than any others, including Christmas. Romanians pay close attention to the holy days surrounding Easter, too, making the celebration an extended one that marks a period of springtime and renewal.
Flowers Day or Palm Sunday
Many superstitions surround the blessing of pussy willows or other foliage and flowers on Palm Sunday. On this day, pussy willow branches are taken to a church to be blessed. These special pussy willows are then used for protection and medicine. Not only is it important to touch children and livestock with the blessed branches, but the swallowing of the willow buds can protect against a sore throat and those that are burned to protect against severe weather.
Good Thursday is the traditional day for painting eggs in the traditional Romanian manner. In the past, red eggs were the norm due to the color’s association with Christ’s blood. Those who are familiar with the Romanian egg-painting tradition, however, know that Romanian eggs today are beautifully decorated in a variety of colors, sometimes using the wax-resist and dye-bath method; other times, Romanian Easter eggs are decorated with hundreds of tiny beads that form traditional patterns. Romanian Easter eggs are called oua incondeiate and are sometimes blessed at church.
Three Days of Easter
Romanian 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 the 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 the 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 essential components of Easter Sunday dinner.
Many, many customs continue to be practiced in Romania, some for fun, some as a part of the holiday ritual, and some as superstition and fortune-telling.
As in other celebrations of Easter in Eastern Europe, knocking eggs together end-to-end is a popular game. Two eggs are cracked together, the first person saying, “Christ is risen,” and the second person saying, “Indeed, He is risen.” The loser will die earlier and must present his egg to the winner so as not to be dealt a rotten egg in the afterlife.
Fires may be lit near churches or on hills for an Easter vigil, especially in the countryside in regions such as Bucovina. In the past, boys may have doused unmarried girls with water or perfume for good luck or to ensure a quick marriage.
Monday After Easter
On the Monday after Easter, ancient spirits are appeased. These ancient spirits, or little people, can’t determine when Easter is over on their own and only understand when they see the remains of eggshells floating on the water, which have been placed there by human celebrants.