Easter in Romania

For the first time in a few years, the Catholic and the Orthodox Easter fall on the same dates (usually there is a two weeks delay for the Orthodox one). So I thought I would share a normal day on Easter for a Romanian.

You get up at 11:30 PM on a Saturday to go to church. The priest holds a special service at midnight, celebrating Jesus’ coming back from the dead. This is when all the people attending light up a candle and then let the warm light shine on them and in them. In some areas, they circle the church three times, in others – only once. It is amazing to see this mass of people move at once – they sing and they praise the Lord.

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At the end of the service, there is bread and wine given to the people (donated by local bakers or shops). The bread and wine are blessed at midnight and is customary eaten on the three Easter days – in the morning.

At 8:30 – 9AM we get up again for the morning sermon.

When I was growing up, my mother use to wake me in the morning holding the cup and two spoons. I would take a spoon and she would take the other. She will start by spoon-feeding me bits of the bread soaked in wine.

“Hristos a inviat!” (Christ has risen) she would prompt

“Adevarat a inviat!” (He has truly risen) I would respond and eat the bread and wine.

We would do this three times and afterwards I would spoon-feed her back and repeat the process.

usually talking about the life of Christ. The sermon lasts until 12:30PM and ends with a song of the coming out of the grave.

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Orthodox priest holding a sermon, Marasti Church, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

After church, people go home and have their Easter Lunch. After months of fasting, the lunch is a banquet – three dishes (soup, main, deserts) – filled with goodness.

Hand-painted eggs for Easter - Cluj
Hand-painted eggs for Easter – Cluj

Just before lunch, we crack eggs. Yes – eggs. We don’t have chocolate eggs in Romania, we have chicken eggs, hard boiled and hand painted in all colours (mostly reds) with intricate designs. The egg cracking is like a game. You hold your egg bottom up and wait for the other person to hit it with the bottom of his egg. If your egg cracks or breaks, you will have to eat it. The winner will go to the next person and try again to break his egg. For six years in a row, my uncle had the strongest egg… until we found out it was made from wood. Now we test it before we let him play.

The meal is held with the entire family, boyfriends and girlfriends are invited too (it can cause a real ruckus if both families (the gf and the bf) insist that the special other joins. There is appetizer on the table (cold meats like deli, salami, meatballs, schnitzels, feta cheese, cheddar cheese, toba (this is a bit hard to explain – it’s like a terrine with jelly and pork meat). Loads of beer, wine, strong spirits and soft drinks for the children.

My cousin having a second serving of soup.
My cousin having a second serving of soup.

After the appetizer,there is soup (vegetable, light chicken soup, light pork soup). My aunt is a very good cook (no offense mom) and I can’t wait for her turn to host Easter in the yearly rotation. She makes cow stomach stew (“ciorba de burta”) and it is absolutely mouthwatering! We always have second servings!

 

 

My mother likes her meat a little too much. She said no to side dishes so she can enjoy this meat fest.
My mother likes her meat a little too much. She said no to side dishes so she can enjoy this meat fest.

The main course takes place about 1h after the soup and appetizer and is made of mash potatoes and meat. Loads of meat. Grilled pork meat, grilled chicken meat, warm schnitzel, loads of oily sauce to top it and so people don’t get sick, we combine the oily foods with very sour side dishes (pickled gerkins, sauerkraut, pickled cauliflower and pickled red cabbage with horseradish).

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prajituri de paste
I love the cakes!

The deserts are mostly ignored after the main course but they are made out of small cake slices (my aunt makes about 6 different cakes and then slices them up and mixes them on one plate.) My mother likes to make fake nuts and home-made Rafaello with coconut and nut center. All the cakes are soft, creamy and can range from vanilla to chocolate with fruit filling.

At about 3PM we retreat from the dining room into the other house areas – tv room or balconies and try to settle the stomach after all that food. Older people use medication for acid (Rennie & Metaclopramid) so they don’t end up at the hospital. We watch the news at 5 – with different stories about how people got drunk and got caught driving recklessly, about people that ate too much and ended up in the A&E ward, about people who have been so generous this Easter that their good deeds did not go unnoticed.
It’s family time, it’s a time to share and drink and rejoice.
After 5, each family takes its children and goes home. Me and my family return to our house and then either watch a movie or sit and talk until night time.

Here are a few pics from my family Easter:

Happy Easter!

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