Easter Traditions in Transylvania
Easter is around the corner and perhaps you are considering a visit to Transylvania in April to embrace the centuries-old traditions unfolding in a beautiful spring. Or perhaps you are simply curious about what Easter looks like in the region. Nevertheless, here are a few things you should know about Transylvanian Easter.
1. Orthodox Easter
Orthodox Easter Sunday usually falls one week later than Easter Sunday in the rest of the Christian world, and this is because Orthodox tradition considers the Julian calendar for the date and not the Gregorian calendar.
This year Orthodox Easter will be celebrated on April 19, yet if you are planning a trip to the region on the weekend before, when the rest of the Christian world celebrates Easter, you can be sure to already enjoy some of the preparations for what religious Romanians find the most important celebration of the year.
2. Easter Night
We call it “Inviere” and it’s a beautiful mass and ritual when believers gather in churches. The priests light the first candle after midnight proclaiming “Hristos a inviat!” (Christ has risen!), after which the light of the candle is passed to each participant to mass - as everyone holds a candle -, making for an uplifting feeling of togetherness bathed in candle light, accompanied by beautiful singing while attendees surround the church 3 times, according to tradition.
For the following weeks, Romanian Christians greet each other with “Hristos a inviat!”, to which the response is “Adevarat a inviat!“ (He has truly risen!). Be sure to bring a candle with you if you are attending the ceremony on Easter night.
On Easter morning, children receive gifts from the Easter bunny.
3. Easter Food. Egg Cracking.
Traditionally no partying or weddings are permitted in the fasting period before Easter when a vegan diet is encouraged for 40 days. This is not taken so seriously in the urban areas, however, with the emergence of all the bio-vegan trends, it’s becoming a great opportunity to detox. After going to Church on Easter Night, people are allowed to feast on Easter-traditional food.
The centerpiece of the table on Easter is the lamb (miel), which is not common at all during the year as a Romanian dish - it’s one of the few times of the year when Romanians cook it. A soup is made out of the head, we make drob (pate) our of the organs, and a wonderful and a tasty roast steak is made out of the legs with red/white wine. Since Easter time means springtime is emerging everywhere, the table is completed by fresh tomatoes, spring onions, and radishes. Desserts include cozonac (sponge cake) and pasca (similar to cheesecake with raisins). Red wine is usually part of the meal.
The essential piece of any Easter lunch/dinner is a basket filled with painted eggs, so expect to eat many eggs during Easter in Romania. These eggs are cracked between family members and friends at any Easter meal, while the words used are "Hristos a inviat!"/"Adevarat a inviat!". At the beginning of the egg cracking, each person chooses from a basket an egg which seems the most unlikely to break and then goes around and fights their egg with the egg each person at the table. The winning egg is the one left unbroken, and all broken eggs must be eaten.
4. Egg Painting and Decorating
The models of the painted eggs can be quite intricate, making them valuable art pieces - you can buy the painted shells as valuable souvenirs. Traditionally, the eggs are painted right before Easter, on Good Friday, and the models used and the level of craftsmanship differs according to the village/area.
The more simple way of painting eggs used in most of the cities involves either food coloring (each egg is colored in one of 5-6 available bright colors, with the most popular being red), or the use of a more natural technique involving red onion leaves, which are boiled to color the water in red. The boiled eggs are then immersed in the red water using stockings (yes, you read that right) and kept there until the desired color intensity is obtained. Sometimes clover or other leaves are used to add some spectacular models to the surface of the egg.
5. Perfume Dousing
On the second day of Easter, girls and women are doused with water or perfume by boys or men for good luck, while the boys/men recite a traditional poem. The girls/women then have to reward them with cake, boiled eggs or money. This sometimes turns into a fun chase, as girls try not to get caught and usually end the day smelling like an entire perfume-store got its bottles smashed.
This tradition was taken from the Germans and the Hungarians and was especially present in noble families until the 19th century. Now everybody keeps it, even in bustling cities. It’s a great excuse to get together in groups of friends and family around Easter, similar to how close people get together for carol-singing at Christmas.
There are many other interesting traditions in Transylvania at Easter time, so make sure you visit the region and discover them for yourself!
You can attend special egg-painting workshops and indulge in the serene atmosphere of the celebrations. You can also be sure to get in touch with nature which is awakening for spring with lushing flowers, in dormant villages which live each day like they did centuries ago.
Why not make this Easter special and discover the simplicity and perhaps the spiritual side of the celebration by visiting Transylvania and going back to the roots?