Easter is the most important religious holiday in Romania, and I want to share some memories and traditions regarding Orthodox Easter in Romania. Some of these Romanian Orthodox Easter customs are still being kept, while some are more likely only remembered by the elderly. Let’s discover some of the Romanian Easter traditions (Orthodox Easter traditions)!
Why is Romania celebrating Orthodox Easter? Because the main religion in Romania is Christian Orthodox, as of the entire Eastern Europe (Thank you, Russia!).
How do you say Happy Easter in Romanian? Paște Fericit!
It is a bit funny since, in Romanian, “paște” can also mean “to graze” (to eat grass). As in, the “Horses are grazing”. Hence there are many jokes on the matter, and some friends wish each other, in Romanian, “Să Paștem Fericiți” which translates as “To Graze Happily Together.” I hope nobody will mind that I explained this joke. The topic of religion is still an uneasy topic for some.
As years passed by, many different traditions formed, and each Orthodox Easter tradition was shaped by a different social environment.
That means that even if the majority of Romanians 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.
To give a bit of cultural background on the Orthodox religion, I will share some childhood memories.
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 Romanian Easter traditions. In my memories, at least.
Remember that Easter day is not a fixed date, and it is calculated based on the spring equinox and the next full moon.
The Orthodox Church uses the Iulian Calendar to calculate it, while the Catholic Church uses the Gregorian Calendar, and that’s why most years, the two dates do not coincide. Even so, Orthodox Easter is almost always in April, although it could be at the end of March or the beginning of May, and it is always celebrated on a Sunday.
So let’s talk about Orthodox Easter traditions, about what Romanians eat for Easter, and other unusual Romanian Easter traditions from different parts of the country.
Romanian Easter Traditions: 5 Orthodox Easter Traditions in Romania
1. Painting the Easter Eggs
As with almost any other Orthodox tradition, I must start with Romanian Easter food. For some unknown reason, to me, Easter is all about eggs. Probably one of the most important Romanian Easter traditions.
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 eggs because you are fasting.
In the Orthodox tradition, people have to fast – not eat any animal product – for seven weeks before Easter. 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 Easter night (it all happens at midnight, Saturday to Sunday because Easter is always on Sunday), you can go home and start eating the eggs and share them with your family and neighbors.
Finally, the best part of this Romanian Easter egg tradition is the way you eat the red eggs. You are supposed to crack them in a 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 terms of the Orthodox religion, I am always fasting).
It turns out that back in the day, 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. Cooking specific Romanian Easter Food
As a disclaimer, and in defense of all those Romanians who overeat and to whom the gastric medicines tv commercials are addressed, the Bible suggests you should fast (not eat any animal products) for 7 weeks before the Orthodox Easter.
A major part of the Romanian Easter traditions is food. A lot of food. Food should be on the Sunday Easter table (specific kinds of Romanian Easter foods). Here are some of the traditional Romanian Easter foods:
- Lamb Steak
- Pască (sweet cheese pie)
- Cozonac (sweet dough filled with cocoa and walnuts)
Let’s explain all these staple Romanian foods and the context of when and how they are eaten.
Traditional Easter Romanian food: Lamb steak
The center food product of 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 Year’s, to bring them good luck).
No Romanian Easter can be celebrated without the mandatory lamb steak as the centerpiece Easter meal in Romania. Romanians use lamb in many creative ways.
Romanians make Lamb soup, Lamb tripe (Drob), and steak. I don’t think I had ever eaten lamb meat except for Easter (when I used to eat meat). I always thought it was cruel. That’s why I don’t eat meat anymore.
Traditional Easter Romanian food: Pască
And there is the traditional Easter Pasca (a Romanian Easter food that’s a specific cheese pie). It is sold everywhere, and everyone makes it at home.
Women make it, they bring it to church to get it blessed by the priest, and they share some with others. Sharing food at the church or to those who are less fortunate than you are is also part of the Romanian Easter tradition.
Sometimes it’s like a competition of who’s Easter pie was the greatest looking or which tasted better. But this happens in rural Romanian communities. Some call it gossip, but I think it’s just the way people are.
Tradtional Easter Romanian food: Cozonac
I almost forgot about the most adored Romanian Easter food, the cozonac. It’s a specific sweet bread and most European countries have a version of it, but obviously, the Romanian version is more complicated are the most delicious of all.
The process of making cozonac takes hours and there are many ways in which the process can go wrong. But to put it in simple terms, cozonac is 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 from my childhood about eating cozonac.
Funny story about cozonac from my childhood: My grandmother used to make a huge stock of Cozonac, that would last for weeks. She would serve it to me for dessert. But I always wanted more. Once, I sneaked into the room where she was keeping the cozonac. 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 afterward.
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 that it is holy.
They say it comes by plane and they distribute it throughout the entire country. Yeah, right. At midnight every church has the holy light to share with its parishioners.
Some years ago, 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 Easter Holy 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 light up their candles. Very few remain for the rest of the Easter service, which begins after they have shared the light. It lasts for hours. When I was there, the priest was very angry about people leaving and tried to guilt-shame us to stay for the service. That’s why my mom and I stayed for another hour. Being at church at 1 am is just weird. Bad timeline, Church!
4. You have to wear new clothes for Easter
Another well-known Romanian Easter tradition is that you have to get new clothes for Easter. Children would especially 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. You should go visiting your family for Easter
The week before Easter is an exhausting week for all women because they are supposed to clean up the house and cook all the above-mentioned foods (and more). 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 “Going 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 Romanian Easter food at their place.
That’s why a lot of news on Easter are about people who ate too much and needed hospitalization. It is a direct cause of the Romanian Easter tradition, which says you should have a full meal and also serve others. And after the 7-week fasting, a lot of people tend to eat more than they need, and they end up in the hospital.
But the important thing is that you got to spend time with your family, catch up and relax.
The takeaway from these Romanian Easter traditions (Orthodox Easter Traditions)
Easter is a time to spend with your family, eat the traditional Easter foods (I’m happy to say that there are some veggie substitutes for them), and relax.
Expect to see lots of eggs everywhere. Chocolate companies love this Easter egg tradition, and you will find Easter chocolate eggs to buy everywhere.
Most importantly, be kind, 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. Note that most of these traditions are more obvious in the countryside and less in Bucharest. However, you’ll find religious people everywhere, and even in the capital city, the worshipers gather at their local church to celebrate Easter.
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.
Paște Fericit! (Happy Easter in Romanian)