Easter is one of the most important celebrations of Christianity, commemorating the moment when Jesus came back from the dead. Romanians start preparing for this special day long before the day itself, and Postul Pastelui (Lent) lasts for 48 days. During this Lenten period we pray and go to church, while some of us give up meat, eggs, or dairy products. It’s a ritual of purification for both the body and soul.
In our country, the symbol of this celebration is the Easter egg. It represents Jesus rising from the grave and coming back to life – just as the chicken comes out of the egg.
So why do we paint the Easter eggs? It is said that when the Virgin Mary came to cry for her crucified son, she placed a basket of eggs under the Cross. The eggs turned red as a symbol of the blood that flowed from the wounds of Jesus, and since then we paint Easter eggs. At first, the eggs were painted only in red, but later we started painting them in many colors, including green, yellow, orange, blue, and even black.
The most beautiful Easter eggs are made in a magical region of Romania called Bucovina. The eggs made here are called “oua incondeiate” (painted eggs). After painting the egg, the technique is to keep the background color of the egg and draw beautiful patterns on the eggshell with melted beeswax. The procedure is complicated and requires much patience and skill. The peasants of Bucovina are undisputed artists who seem to possess magical powers because only magic can turn a simple egg into such an amazing piece of art. You can admire these masterpieces in the “EggMuseum” in the village of Vama, and better still, if you are brave enough, you can even try to practice this ancient technique with some help from the local artisans.
On the night before Easter, Romanians put on new clothes and go to church. At midnight, everyone lights a candle from the priest’s candle. The light from these candles symbolizes the return of Jesus from the dead. It’s a very special moment and the sight of hundreds of candles in the night can take your breath away.
At dawn, after attending the religious service, everyone goes home, carefully holding their candle. On Easter morning we wash our faces with water from a bowl , into which we put a red egg and a coin. It is said that if you wash your face with this water, you will be healthy and beautiful – just like an Easter egg.
I hope that you are not too hungry because I will now continue with the really tasty part of this story. The Easter meal contains red eggs, lamb, cheese, lots of vegetables, and the traditional Romanian cake of this celebration – “pasca” – which is a type of sponge cake filled with cheese, eggs and raisins. A real feast, don’t you think? And to make things even more interesting, we celebrate Easter in Romania for three whole days.
It is fashionable nowadays to import traditions from other cultures, and Easter is no exception. We have adopted the Western symbol of Easter – the Easter Bunny – and children are now very happy to receive gifts both from Santa Claus at Christmas and from the Easter Bunny at Easter. But should you want to celebrate Easter celebration the true Romanian way, just remember that we are right here, in the heart of Europe, and waiting to share our age-old customs and traditions with you.