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Easter in Romania

Easter in Romania



I Introduction


Easter, annual festival commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the principal feast of the Christian year. It is celebrated on a Sunday on varying dates between March 22 and April 25 and is therefore called a movable feast. The dates of several other ecclesiastical festivals, extending over a period between Septuagesima Sunday (the ninth Sunday before Easter) and the first Sunday of Advent, are fixed in relation to the date of Easter.

Connected with the observance of Easter are the 40-day penitential season of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding at midnight on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday; Holy Week, commencing on Palm Sunday, including Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion, and terminating with Holy Saturday; and the Octave of Easter, extending from Easter Sunday through the following Sunday. During the Octave of Easter in early Christian times, the newly baptized wore white garments, white being the liturgical color of Easter and signifying light, purity, and joy.


II Pre-Christian tradition


Easter, a Christian festival, embodies many pre-Christian traditions. The origin of its name is unknown. Scholars, however, accepting the derivation proposed by the 8th-century English scholar St. Bede, believe it probably comes from Ēastre, the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, to whom was dedicated a month corresponding to April. Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox; traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored easter eggs, originally painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring, and used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts.

Such festivals, and the stories and legends that explain their origin, were common in ancient religions. A Greek legend tells of the return of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the earth, from the underworld to the light of day; her return symbolized to the ancient Greeks the resurrection of life in the spring after the desolation of winter. Many ancient peoples shared similar legends. The Phrygians believed that their omnipotent deity went to sleep at the time of the winter solstice, and they performed ceremonies with music and dancing at the spring equinox to awaken him. The Christian festival of Easter probably embodies a number of converging traditions; most scholars emphasize the original relation of Easter to the Jewish festival of Passover, or Pesach, from which is derived Pasch, another name for Easter. The early Christians, many of whom were of Jewish origin, were brought up in the Hebrew tradition and regarded Easter as a new feature of the Passover festival, a commemoration of the advent of the Messiah as foretold by the prophets.


III The Dating Of Easter


According to the New Testament, Christ was crucified on the eve of Passover and shortly afterward rose from the dead. In consequence, the Easter festival commemorated Christ's resurrection. In time, a serious difference over the date of the Easter festival arose among Christians. Those of Jewish origin celebrated the resurrection immediately following the Passover festival, which, according to their Babylonian lunar calendar, fell on the evening of the full moon (the 14th day in the month of Nisan, the first month of the year); by their reckoning, Easter, from year to year, fell on different days of the week.

Christians of Gentile origin, however, wished to commemorate the resurrection on the first day of the week, Sunday; by their method, Easter occurred on the same day of the week, but from year to year it fell on different dates.

An important historical result of the difference in reckoning the date of Easter was that the Christian churches in the East, which were closer to the birthplace of the new religion and in which old traditions were strong, observed Easter according to the date of the Passover festival. The churches of the West, descendants of Greco-Roman civilization, celebrated Easter on a Sunday.


IV Rulings Of The Council Of Nicaea On The Date Of Easter


Constantine the Great, Roman emperor, convoked the Council of Nicaea in 325. The council unanimously ruled that the Easter festival should be celebrated throughout the Christian world on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox; and that if the full moon should occur on a Sunday and thereby coincide with the Passover festival, Easter should be commemorated on the Sunday following. Coincidence of the feasts of Easter and Passover was thus avoided.

The Council of Nicaea also decided that the calendar date of Easter was to be calculated at Alexandria, then the principal astronomical center of the world. The accurate determination of the date, however, proved an impossible task in view of the limited knowledge of the 4th-century world. The principal astronomical problem involved was the discrepancy, called the epact, between the solar year and the lunar year. The chief calendric problem was a gradually increasing discrepancy between the true astronomical year and the Julian calendar then in use.


V Later Dating Methods


Ways of fixing the date of the feast tried by the church proved unsatisfactory, and Easter was celebrated on different dates in different parts of the world. In 387, for example, the dates of Easter in France and Egypt were 35 days apart. About 465, the church adopted a system of calculation proposed by the astronomer Victorinus (flourished 5th century), who had been commissioned by Pope Hilarius to reform the calendar and fix the date of Easter. Elements of his method are still in use, although the Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus made significant adjustments to the Easter cycle in the 6th century. Refusal of the British and Celtic Christian churches to adopt the proposed changes led to a bitter dispute between them and Rome in the 7th century.

Reform of the Julian calendar in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, through adoption of the Gregorian calendar, eliminated much of the difficulty in fixing the date of Easter and in arranging the ecclesiastical year; since 1752, when the Gregorian calendar was also adopted in Great Britain and Ireland, Easter has been celebrated on the same day in the Western part of the Christian world. The Eastern churches, however, which did not adopt the Gregorian calendar, commemorate Easter on a Sunday either preceding or following the date observed in the West. Occasionally the dates coincide; the most recent times were in 1865 and 1963.

Because the Easter holiday affects a varied number of secular affairs in many countries, it has long been urged as a matter of convenience that the movable dates of the festival be either narrowed in range or replaced by a fixed date in the manner of Christmas. In 1923 the problem was referred to the Holy See, which has found no canonical objection to the proposed reform. In 1928 the British Parliament enacted a measure allowing the Church of England to commemorate Easter on the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April. Despite these steps toward reform, Easter continues to be a movable feast.


Easter in Romsnia


The most important religious holiday in Romania is, of course, Easter. Romanians paint eggs especially in red. Romanian folklore presents several Christian legends, which explain why the eggs are painted in red on Easter and why they became the symbol of the celebration of Christ's Resurrection.
            The most widespread legend tells us about Virgin Mary, who came to mourn her crucified son, laid the basket with eggs near the cross and they reddened because of the blood that was flowing from Jesus' wounds. The Lord, seeing that the eggs reddened, said to those who were there: "From now on, you too shall paint the eggs in red to remember my crucifixion, as I did today."

But there is another tradition that became a true art: decorating eggs with folk motifs symbolizing renewal and immortality: the cross, the star, the sun, the wave, the zigzags, and stylised flowers.
            Prior to decorating eggs, these are washed with warm water and vinegar, boiled slowly not to break their shell, and covered with a thin bed of bee wax. Then the eggs decorated using special tools, such as: goose feather, the "chisita" (special tool, made of a thin metal pipe, with very small diameter; a pig hair is pulled through it) is used for "writing" the motive and the "brush" (a tool that is used for covering the larger spaces - thick lines, points etc.). Vegetal colours obtained from sweet apple peal, leaves and flowers, hip rose peal, are used.

            In Romania the Christian Church says that Jesus was born during the winter solstice and his death followed by his resurrection happened during the spring equinox, the Easter.

The most important Christian holiday is the day of Jesus' Resurrection. Cleaning the houses, wearing new clothes, the ritual bath before going to church, all these are supposed to mark a new beginning. After a long fast - the Lent, tables full with all sorts of good dishes and brightened up with beautiful painted eggs create a festive atmosphere. Children are the happiest of all looking for their gifts and colored eggs in the newly grown grass.

Everybody including the peasants are beautifully dressed in their national costumes, with lit candles in their hands, gathered together around the churches at midnight in order to solemnly utter:"Jesus Christ has risen from the dead". Everywhere around the churches, on the hills or in the plains, people light fires and sing Our Saviour's praises.

After the service, their is a multitude of flaring lit candles, a most uplifting and touching sight, make for home where people clink Easter eggs with beautifully dyed or exquisitely painted shells. The craftsmanship of dyeing the eggs at Easter, is an ancient tradition with Romanians, is due to the belief that eggs represent the source of life. The egg, preserver of the mystery of the origin of life, has always been related to the rites of the revival of nature. There is definitely a close link between Easter, the egg and the vernal equinox as the three of them cheese, cake, lamb roast and broth, drob which is a spiced minced lamb and fresh cottage cheese.

            An ancient tradition says that Devil , being very curious, every year wants to know if the Romanians still keep their tradition of celebrating Easter and painting the eggs in red. You will wonder why. The answer is very simple; because in that very day when the Romanians will forget these customs, the Devil will become "the master of the world".

In many regions of Romania, especially in Bucovina, painting and decorating Easter eggs is a real art.
When the Romanians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, they sacrifice a lamb, according to the tradition. Then, they prepare the "drob" (a kell), roast lamb and lamb with spinach.
            Other important preparation for the Resurrection Day is "pasca", a sweet pund cheese with raisins and the pund cake with nuts.
A good wine will accompany everything on Easter Day feast.





Participating at Easter Holidays in a village in Transylvania is a unique experience. All the preparations preceding the resurrection feast, the midnight service, children passing in the morning from house to house to wish you "Happy Easter" and get a red painted Easter egg represent as many as occasions for delighting your soul.
Lunca Ilvei is a mountain village, placed on the Ilva river valley, in North-Eastern Transylvania, far away from the noisy towns. Local people are living in harmony with earth and nature, in accordance with the seasons.

            Easter: Along with the religious aspects, in Romania the holiday is seen as symbolizing rebirth and renewal of everyday life. Cleaning one's house, wearing new clothes and a ritual bath before going to church are all supposed to mark a new beginning. Everyone, rich or poor, dresses in his/her best clothing, many wearing national costumes, and attends a midnight church service. Candles are lit for each person throughout the service, and people leave with candles still lit, returning home to place them in their houses and apartments. It is also said that lit candles prevent thunder and lighting from harming people as they go home.
            Once home, the festivities continue with a traditional Romanian feast, which likely includes dishes such as "pasca", "cozonacul" spiced minced lamb or lamb roast, cheeses and sponge cake. The craftsmanship of dyeing the eggs at Easter is an ancient tradition with Romanians. The belief that eggs represent the source of life led to the relation of eggs to the rites of the revival of nature, and eventually Easter. Romanians traditionally painted Easter Eggs red and they decorated them ornately. Over time, other colors were used and this custom was transformed into an art form and expert skill. Today, real and wooden eggs are painted with intricate designs, or decorated all over with various colored beads, and are available throughout the year.



The Easters And the Easter Eggs


As a symbol of creation, of begetting life, the egg have inspired, from ancient times, numerous legends, fairy-tales, an entire literature. In the Romanian culture it is sufficient to mention two outstanding representants: Constantin Brancusi and Ion Barbu, whose works orbit around this subject, considered having perfect geometrical form - the perfect object. The origin of egg painting is lost in the darkness of the pre-Christian era, when the New Year was celebrated at the vernal equinox. The eggs were gifted as a symbol of equilibrium, creation and fecundity. The Romans used red-painted eggs as gifts on celebrating Janus and they were used in different games and religious ceremonies. The custom of the egg painting was transmitted to the Christians and is still used especially by the peoples of Europe and Asia. As opposed to other European countries, where this custom restrained or vanished, in Romania it flourished, reaching the tops of art by the technique, materials, significance of the motives and the perfection of achievement.
            In Romania the painted eggs represent a proof of the tradition, beliefs and Easter customs being placed among the elements of great folk spiritual cultural value, which define the ethnical peculiarities of our people. The folklore presents several Christian legends which explain why the eggs are painted in red on Easter and why they became the symbol of the celebration of Christ's Ressurection.The most wide-spread legend tells us about how Virgin Mary, who came to mourn her crucified son, laid the basket with eggs near the cross and they reddened because of the blood that was flowing from Jesus" wounds. The Lord, seeing that the eggs reddened, said to those who were there:"From now on, you too shall paint the eggs in red to remember my crucifixion, as I did today."

  • Materials

·         hen egg (traditional)

·         vegetal colors

·         bee wax

  • Tools

·         goose feather

·         "Chisita" (special tool, made of a thin metal pipe, with very small diameter; a pig hair is pulled through it) is used for "writing" the motive.

·         "Brush" (a tool that is used for covering the larger spaces - thick lines, points etc.)

  • (Vegetal) Colours

·         obtain from sweat apple peal, sweet apple leaves and flowers, hip rose peal etc.








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