Easter is the most important religious holiday in the entire calendar, and I want to share some memories and some traditions regarding the Orthodox Easter. Some are still being kept, while some are more likely only remembered by the elderly. Let’s discover some of the Romanian Easter traditions aka Orthodox Easter traditions!
The main religion in Romania is Christian Orthodox, as of entire Eastern Europe (Thank you, Russia!).
But as years passed by, many different traditions formed, and each Orthodox Easter tradition was shaped by the different social environment. That means that even if the majority of Romanian are Orthodox, traditions can vary, in the many different regions of the country. Of course, the more extreme geographic points of Romania, have the most differences in their Orthodox Easter traditions.
I was raised and forced by society to go to church before each Easter and Christmas to confess my sins. Probably, they thought it would make me a good Christian. Anyway, one thing they got right, was that I got stuck with the traditions. In my memories at least.
So let’s talk about Orthodox Easter traditions, about what Romanians eat for Easter and other unusual traditions from different parts of Romania.
Here are the 5 Romanian Easter Traditions (Orthodox Easter traditions)
1 Red Eggs
For some unknown reason to me, Easter is all about eggs. Probably one of the most important Romanian Easter tradition.
The first step is to paint them red on the Thursday before Easter.
Then you wait for Easter to come, as you just look at red egss because you are fasting.
In the Orthodox tradition, people have to fast – not eat any animal product – for seven weeks. This period is known as the Largest Fasting time in the Orthodox religious calendar – yes, we have a religious calendar, in print!!.
After attending the Church service during the Easter night (it all happens at mining, Saturday to Sunday, because Easter is always on Sunday), you can go home and start easting the eggs, share them with your family and neighbours.
Finally, the best part of this Orthodox red eggs tradition is the way you eat the eggs. You are supposed to crack them in a sort of competition of who has the “strongest” egg. I guess it’s a family activity, like all other religious activities in the Orthodox traditions.
After I Googled the website of the Romanian church, I got more info on the history of the red eggs we are so joyfully cracking (not me, I am a vegan, or to put it in the terms of the Orthodox religion, I am always fasting).
It turns out that back in the day, the eggs were considered a symbol of creation, fruitfulness and life in general.
It is related to Spring and the process of the revival of nature.
Fun fact: I read (on a site that claims to be the largest Orthodox community worldwide) that Chinese people used to dye eggs 2000 years before Christ.
2 Easter Food in Romania
As a disclaimer, and in the defence of all those Romanians who overeat, and to whom the gastric medicines tv commercials are addressed, before Easter, the Bible suggests you should fast (not eat any animal products) for 7 weeks before Orthodox Easter.
A major part of the Romanian Easter traditions is about food. A lot of food. There should be food on the Sunday Easter table (specific kinds of Easter foods).
Easter Romanian food: Lamb steak
The centre food product of the Easter cuisine is the lamb. Poor animal. They use every part of this tender animal (The same animal they were hugging and kissing for New Years, to bring them good luck).
Romanian use lamb in many creative ways.
Romanians make Lamb soup, Lamb tripe (Drob), steak. I don’t think I have ever eaten lamb meat except for Easter (when I used to eat meat). I always thought it was cruel what we were doing. So I don’t eat meat anymore.
Easter Romanian food: Pasca
And there is the traditional Easter Pasca (an Easter specific cheese pie) that is sold everywhere, and everyone makes it at home.
Women make it, they bring to church to get it blessed by the priest and they give some to others. Sharing food at the church or to those who are less fortunate than you are is also part of the tradition.
Sometimes it’s like a competition of who’s pie was the greatest looking or which tasted better. But this is more like a general rule in authentic Romanian communities. Some call it gossip, but I think it’s just the way people are.
Easter Romanian food: Cozonac
I almost forgot about the sweet bread (Cozonac).
It’s a sweet bread, with cacao and walnuts. It is my favourite Romanian food. Romanians make Cozonac for Christmas and Easter. And to be honest, when I think about Romanian Easter traditions, I think about cozonac!
I have a lot of memories of me eating tons of Cozonac.
My grandmother used to make a huge stock of Cozonac, that would last for weeks. She would serve it to me for dessert after a meal. But I always wanted more. Once I sneaked into the cozonac room. And I ate a bit. Later I did it again. Not long after, an entire cozonac was gone (it was quite big). My grandma later discovered the reason I was not eating her food anymore. Oops. She got a bit angry. Can’t remember if she locked the door to Cozonac afterwards.
3 Going to church to get the holy light
If I were to believe what the Orthodox Church is saying, then I will have to believe that the light is coming from Jerusalem and it is holy.
They say it comes by plane and they distribute it in the entire country really fast. Yeah, right. At midnight every possible church has the holy light.
Some years ago, as my mom asked me to go with her to church to get this miraculous light. I pleased her and went to church at midnight.
I then discovered that most people go just to get the light. You have to bring a bigger candle (which they sell everywhere before Easter), and get it lit up from the church. A lot of people go home after they lit up their candle. Very few remain for the rest of the Easter service which begin after they have shared the light. Apparently it lasts for hours. When I was there, the priest was very mad about people leaving, and tried to guilt shame us to stay for the service. And we did for another hour. Being at church at 1 am is just weird. Bad timeline, Church!
4 Wearing new clothes for Easter
Another well-known tradition is that you have to get new clothes for Easter. Especially children would get new clothes.
This is also related to the renewal symbol of Easter, and you (as a good Christian who goes to church) would have to wear new clothes for this extraordinary service.
5 Visiting your family for Easter
The week before Easter is an exhausting week for all women, who are supposed to clean up the house and cook all the above-mentioned foods. Even the days are set for when you cook each thing. For example, the eggs have to be dyed on Thursday and on Friday you bake the pie (Pasca).
On Saturday evening, you get all dressed up and you go to church, in the middle of the night. No worries, everyone is roaming the streets, going to or getting back from the church with the holy light. After this, you go home and you have the most awaited feast. With your family.
On Easter Sunday, you are supposed to spend it at home with your family.
I always found this part boring.
Or you go to visit your family if you are far away from home. Hence, the saying “I go home for Easter”.
On the 2nd Easter day, you’re supposed to go and visit the extended family. Your godfathers, grandmas, dogs, stuff like that. You eat some more at their place.
The takeaway from these Romanian Easter traditions (Orthodox Easter Traditions)
Easter is a time to spend with your family, eating the traditional meal (I am still hoping I will find some veggie substitutes for them) and relax.
Expect to see lots of eggs, everywhere. Chocolate companies love this tradition, and everywhere you will find Easter chocolate eggs to buy.
Most importantly, be kind, be forgiving and sympathetic towards others. As the tradition says, Christ has forgiven us and that’s an example for all of us. I have no idea about this Christ guy, but I know that being nice always pays back.
If you enjoyed reading this, share it, pin it and tell people about our Romanian Easter tradition. Please do comment with any other tradition, I would love to hear about it.