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Specially Treasured Romanian Easter Customs, Beliefs and Rituals

Claudia Miclaus Apr 14, 2019
Loaded with traditions, Easter in Romania is celebrated with great respect for Christ, given the fact that almost all the Romanians are Christians. From the Easter Bunny to the special Easter lamb meal, they make this celebration a colorful and highly cherished affair.
Easter is highly celebrated worldwide in the Christian world. Yet, each country has its own traditions, rituals, and beliefs. Such is the case of Romania, where people have different customs, depending on the region.
Thus, in Bucovina, on resurrection night, young ladies go to the church steeple and wash the bell clapper with freshwater. Then they wash their faces with this very same water on Easter morning, in order to look beautiful all yearlong, and to attract young men.
The Easter Bunny's appearance within the Easter traditions is due to the remains of pagan rituals and deities worshiped in ancient times. This lovely animal is seen as a symbol of fertility.
There is an old northern legend which says that, one winter day, the goddess Eostre found a wounded bird in a forest. In order to save the bird, the goddess turned it into a female rabbit, yet leaving it with the capacity of laying eggs.
There are different customs and traditions for celebrating Our Lord Jesus' ascension into Heaven, the Ispas, and the Horses' Easter. Ispas is the mythical character that is thought to have witnessed the moment of the Lord's (together with the resurrected ones) ascension into heaven.
Starting from the Easter day to the Ispas day, people greet each other by saying "Christ is risen", and the answer to this is "He is truly risen". On the day of the ascension, people say "Christ has ascended into Heaven" and the answer to this is "He has truly ascended into Heaven". This custom lasts until the day after the Ispas.
There are some more Romanian customs and beliefs that may appear unusual or even interesting. Such is the habit of people wearing nut leaves around their waist, because Christ is said to have worn such leaves during His ascension.
Also, according to the popular belief, those who die on the Ispas day, go straight into the heaven. Another uncanny ritual consists of cutting hair from the cows tail and burying them in an anthill while uttering the following blessing "May God give you as many lambs and veal as the ants in this ant hill".
Another superstition says that it is forbidden to give away any fire or salt on the day of the ascension. If one gives away fire, one will be despised the whole year through, and the people in that house will be as mean as fire; and if one gives away salt, his cows won't produce any sour cream.
Whatever is planted after the Ispas, does not blossom or bear fruit. On the day of The Lord's ascension, women who have recently deceased people in their families, give away warm wafers, green onion, and brandy for the souls of the dead, as they believe their souls would travel to the heaven and they would need some supplies.
Still part of the Romanian tradition, the art of painting Easter eggs is quite developed in certain country regions. There are a lot of motifs in painting the eggs, each of them having several versions, depending on the exact region.
The most frequent motifs are animal representations having bees, frogs, snakes, lambs; vegetal motifs include fir leaves, carnations, wheat ears; home and field tools have rakes, spades, plows industrial ornaments; motifs taken from home industry include the cleavage formed when sewing shirts and sleeves and others include the cross, the lost way, etc.
The cross, a symbol of Christianity, is represented in the Romanian tradition the same way as the Russian or Moldavian one by a cross having other small crosses at its four edges.
Other largely spread motifs are the star and the monastery which are reminders of Christianity. At any rate, the painted eggs are meant to give us feelings of joy, astonishment, humility, reconciliation, because their decoration operates with Christian symbols or natural motifs, together with all their sacred significance.
However, all the Easter traditions span around the historical fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God is alive. Come and visit Romania in Easter!