If there is one common thread that unites the people of Romania, it is their religion. An estimated more than 85% of the country belong to the Romanian Orthodox religion and this is easily seen when the whole nation comes together for the celebration of the Easter holiday.
It is considered to be the most important religious day of the year, with celebrations all over the country. Known as Paste in Romania, Easter is celebrated according to the Julian calendar, which means that it often falls on a different day than in Catholicism or other Christian faiths. Like many other countries, Romania has its own set of Easter traditions that are easily noticeable before and after the holiday.
The Lent Fast
Because of the heavy religious significance of Easter, 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. While not everyone in the country follows a rigid adherence to this fast, most restaurants will offer items that fit the fasting diet, usually being designated by the term “de post.” This is also a helpful hint for vegetarian travelers who want to know what they can eat on a restaurant’s menu.
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 is for the children 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.