Easter is a great religious celebration all over the Christian world because it commemorates the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus.
Easter is a great religious celebration all over the Christian world because it commemorates the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus. Historians say that in ancient times there were a pagan rituals which celebrate the coming of spring (the Vernal Equinox).
For example the Druids welcomed spring making bonfires in May.
Christian missionaries had the idea to convert those pagan feasts into one Christian holiday which is now even more important than Christmas.
Before 325 A.D. Easter was celebrated in any day of the week. But in this particular year, the Emperor Constantine established the Easter rule: it will be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first ecclesiastical full moon (which differs from the full moon we see on the sky) after the Vernal Equinox - March 21st. Also Easter must be preceded by a 46 days of Lenten which is considered absolutely necessary for a proper spiritual preparation to welcome such a great miracle.
Nowadays the customs differ from country to country but all of them bring in our memory Christ Resurrection!
In the Eastern Europe this celebration is an opportunity for keeping alive many beautiful customs.
In the countries where the Orthodox Church is predominant as Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine there are specific old traditions that cannot be found elsewhere. Everywhere this moment is special because people feel again in their hearts the miracle of Resurrection and remember their dead relatives. In Romania we call this religious holiday Paste. Before it, there are seven weeks of Lenten when any Orthodox Christian is not allowed to eat meat, cheese, milk, eggs or a combination of these. People use to pray for their dead relatives all Saturdays before the holy night by going to the church with special food and cakes.
Also in this period of time there are forbidden merry customs as weddings or baptism feasts. At the countryside, the housewife cleans everything in her house or in her garden, washes the curtains and carpets, weaves fabrics for new clothes and buy all necessary things for the special dishes she will cook two or three days before the holy night of Resurrection.
The Palm Sunday is called in Romania "Florii" (the Flowers Day). It is a very special day which remembers us how Jesus was welcomed at his entrance in Jerusalem.
People go to the church having fresh branches of willow and after the ceremony of blessing, they bring them home.
In many Romanian villages these willow branches are kept near the Orthodox icons till the next Palm Sunday because it is an ancient belief saying that they have a magical power to protect the house from the bad events or bad spirits.
Also in this Sunday all people having flower names as Florin, Florica, Crina, Margareta, Lacramioara, Viorica are celebrated by their families and friends.
The history of the Easter eggs is wonderful. In ancient Egypt, Persia, Phoenicia and India an enormous egg was considered to bring life to Earth. Over 500 years ago it was written in a book which mentioned the different Easter eggs by their local names.
Even a Christian tribe from North Africa used to color eggs on the occasion of Easter. In Romania, the decoration of eggs was a lovely habit since the old times. The first documentary mention was made by an Italian named Del Chiaro who described the life of the Princely Court in Bucharest during the reign of Constantin Brancoveanu (1689-1714).
Also it was another Moldavian note about the habit of painting eggs written in Iasi by the Chancellor Gheorghe (1762).
Since the ancient times, in the last Thursday before Easter women use to cook Pasca and Cozonac (these sweet breads are specific to Romania and symbolize the face and body of Christ). Also they prepare lamb roast and many other dishes made only once a year : on the occasion of Easter. In the next day (Friday) women living in the villages of Bukovina and Moldavia wake up early in the morning and perfume with incense their houses by surrounding it for three times with burning incense.
This is an old superstition saying that only in this way little bugs or other insects will not enter in it! After that women start the preparation for coloring the eggs.
Tourists are amazed by the brightness of colors, by the patterns and the harmony of nuances used to paint eggs. Hundreds of years ago there were used natural colors but today they use chemical pigments bought from the store.
The colors can be yellow, red, green and blue. Specialists made researches and found four major types of Easter eggs : monochromic eggs, monochromic eggs with decorations, polychrome eggs and eggs with special ornaments (as small colored glass millets stuck on their surfaces - this type is made only at the Sucevita Monastery in Moldavia).
The patterns are very different: animals, plants, branches, geometric motifs, cross, domestic tools, sun, stars and even angels.
Little by little an old technique was developed so nowadays these small creations are considered valuable pieces of art.
In many private collections or museums you may find them.
The Romanian Orthodox Easter begins with the holy night and it lasts for the next three days : Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
It is said that the gates of heaven will open exactly on the night of Resurrection and they will remain open for the next seven days. Anyone who dies in this period of time will enter in heaven despite his humanly sins.
In many villages and small towns there is an old tradition in this particular night. The whole family goes to the church together, the head of the family carrying a basket full of colored eggs, pasca, cozonac, fresh cheese, dry basil, incense, a bottle of wine and candles. After the religious ceremony, when the bells are singing with joy the Resurrection, the priest come out of the church and bless the community and their baskets saying all the time "Christ has risen" and everyone respond as a single voice: "He has truly risen". The cane burning, the air is full of magic and it is a general happiness everywhe
In many Romanian families, the first lunch is taken right after coming back from church, early in the morning.
They still wear their best clothes and have the candles burning. In many others, Sunday morning starts by washing their faces and hands with fresh water in which they add a colored egg (usually red) and a silver coin.
In this way people believe that the next year they will be healthy and rich. It is pity that this custom is almost forgotten by modern young people.
Anyway, the breakfast is made always from colored eggs, pasca and cozonac. The clinking of colored eggs is a beautiful tradition all over the country.
In many regions, in the first day family members or friends must clink eggs "top to top", in the second day "top to bottom" and in the third day "bottom to bottom".
Always the oldest man (woman) in the group will begin the ceremony by choosing a partner. The person who is in action must say "Christ has risen" and the one who is waiting with the egg in his hand must reply immediately "He truly has risen".
Those who didn't meet and clink colored eggs on the occasion of Easter will not be together after their death. So Monday and Tuesday children and young families use to visit their parents, elder brothers, grandparents, godparents and older relatives or friends. In every house they enter, on the table they will find a big plate having pasca, cozonac and colored eggs in the middle. The guests will be invited to take a sit and taste a piece of everything. It must be a wonderful merry holiday for anyone!
Is a holiday which takes place in May and it is dedicated to the God of vegetation, protector of the cattle, horses, cornfields, wine-yard and orchards.
The shelters of animals, the pillars and the entrances of the houses are decorated with green branches.
There are organized field feasts in the open. It is drank red wine mixed with wormwood for the change of the blood and protection against diseases.
The tradition of the decoration with green branches is inspired from the New Testament.
Vernal Equinox – Echinocţiul de Primăvară
It is a holiday very well known like Annunciation. It conjures up the moment when Archangel Gabriel brings the Holy Virgin the news that she will give birth to Jesus Christ.
On this day children put bells on their legs. The sounds made by these bells drive away the powers of Evil from the houses and yards. People light fires in the gardens and orchards and take out from the houses all their clothes to fresh them.
People say that this holiday is the best moment for grafting the trees and taking out the beehives from the hibernation. Women keep water from the melt snow to use it in their own cosmetics. At this holiday people eat preferably fish.
Flowers Festival – Floriile
The Flowers Festival is a syncretic holiday, combining beliefs or practices, which take place on that Sunday that comes before Easter.
It is dedicated to the Roman Goddess of Flowers. During the day Romanians go to the church with a young branch from a willow tree to be sanctified.
Then the people embellish the windows and the doors with them. It is said that the willow branches symbolize the fertility of spring.
On this day nobody works and people eat fish. They symbolize the fertility. The little March, a tiny jewel made of tin with a red and white cord is hung in a wild rose or in a blossomed fruit tree.