Fiesta de Primavera – Romanian edition
Romania has a variety of traditions connected to spring. If in the previous article we found out about mărțișor, now I’d like to share few traditions more.
Let’s begin with Baba Dochia’s Days (1-9th March). The old grudged woman Dochia has a step daughter that she didn’t like at all. One day she gave the girl a very dirty coat asking her to wash it in the river until the coat would become white as the snow. As much as the girl would wash it, the coat was becoming more and more black. A man appeared asking the girl what she’s doing. As listening to the story gives the girl a flower, he told her to wash it one more time and return back home. The coat become purely white and as Dochia saw the flower in her hair thought the spring had come and prepared to leave on the mountains with the sheep. On the way to the top she left one by one the coats she was wearing until she had none left but the weather changed. As pretty as it was in the beginning of the day as uglier it turned by night and everything started to freeze, including Dochia and her sheep. According to the legend they turned into stone with time, which can still be seen today on Ceahlău Mountain.
Image source: Wikipedia
The symbol of 9 (9 days) have a magical meaning in the old lunar calendar of the Carpathian area. This celebration opens the row of several festivities at 9 days apart (Mucenicii – 9th March, Alexiile – 17th March, Blagovestenia – 25th March). Baba Dochia is also the border between the old year and the new one. 1st March is attributed to the spring, 2nd March to the summer while 3rd to autumn and the way the weather is in these 3 days that is how the seasons will be that year too. The last day of this fest is the 9th March which overlaps with another celebration: Mucenicii.
The 40 martyrs (mucenicii) is a Christian legend telling the story about the 40 persons that were left in Sevastia lake to freeze overnight as they didn’t want to betray their faith in God. For this day, pastries in the shape of 8 are baked (Moldova) or boiled in water (south) as a symbol of infinity of the belief. As we have a Romanian shop here I could find the semi-prepared boiled version: mucenici boiled in water with vanilla and rum essence, cinnamon and sugar, and at the end added minced nuts. It might look a bit bad from the colour it takes from the nuts and cinnamon but it sure tastes delicious.
Image source: thebossykitchen.com; Embajada de Rumania en Mexico (Facebook)
The ancient tradition though celebrates on 9th March the spring equinox and the beginning of the agricultural year in the Julian calendar. On this day the fires symbolize as well burning the winter and rebirth of the spring. Through this magical ritual it was desired to support the Sun in overcoming the critical moment of the perfect equilibrium between light and darkness.
Alexiile come actually from a legend which tells that the human had a lot to suffer from insects so God gathered them all in a box and called Alexie to throw it in the water seas. Alexie couldn’t resist the curiosity and opened the box so all he insects spread again on Earth. For not having listened, he is transformed into a heron and punished to pick up again all the insects from 17th March to 14th September. This is in fact the period when the storks and herons return.
Image source: galeriefoto.com
The last celebration is that of Annunciation day (Blagovestenie), on 25th March is dedicated to Mary. It is the day in which he St. Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she’ll give birth to Jesus. Besides the Christian meaning, this day was used to diminish the malefic forces or to forecast the life’s duration. It is said that on this day it is not good to go around hungry and without money on you. When the cuckoo appears and starts singing, you should throw money in its direction chanting a song and counting the times the bird would sing. Each song is considered to be 1 year of your life.
Spring has a lot of traditions and Romania these being the main ones. Some of them are still in practice today despite their pagan character, in the end celebrating the nature and the life in general, mixed with Christian practices that were combined with later on.
Image source: infoanimale.net