Welcome, dear summer
Today we’ll talk about summer, the astronomical one, which started on 20th June this year and along with it, on 24th June yearly the Romanians celebrate Sânziene and the traditional blouse’s universal day.
Last Friday, on 26th June I had the chance to celebrate Sânziene, ia and the summer solstice together with members of ACDC, a local student organisation. Despite being quite limited in number, 9 with 1 participant online, I accomplished what I have had in plan – a journey from ancient times to the present Romania.
We started in the old lands of Dacians, the ancient population living on the nowadays Romanian lands. It is known this population to have worshiped sun gods and that there were many celebrations connected to the sun (light) and moon (darkness). For every solstice or equinox, the Dacians had traditions and customs they followed rigorously. In fact, the celebration of Sânziene is believe to have kept its traditions ever since, over which new Christian customs were overlaid, without excluding the initial ones.
It is believe that the origin of the name, Sânziana, comes from the Assyrian goddess Sin (of the moon) or from the god Samas, the god of the Sun. Another option is that of sân (saint) and zână (fairy), which would be the holy fairies. Zână is in fact a word kept from the Dacian vocabulary and it was connected to the lunar rituals.
The night is very important in many traditions, same like here. In fact, all the traditions for celebrating Sânziene happen from the sunset to sunrise. When the sun was starting to appear, everything was already finished.
Worth to mention is also the fact that sânzienele are also a plant, with yellow or white flowers, with magical powers. It is said that if you pick up sânziene in the day before and you put it under your pillow over the night, you will dream about your destined man. Many celebrations bring upfront the ladies with such dreams, so this comes with no particular surprise here either.
The flowers grow from the lowest levels up to 2.500 m altitude so are very easy to find everywhere around the country. The flowers can be used to cure and ameliorate a lot of diseases starting from headaches to stomach problems. They are often used in such traditional treatments as, you know, they have magical powers and a healing role, just like the ancient priestesses.
Image source: doc.ro
The day before, in the morning when the flowers still have the dew on it, women go to pick them up for the flower crowns they braid for personal usage and for the house. In fact, bigger and small crowns are done for every living creature of the household, people and animals equally, which then are thrown over the house’s roof for protection and wealth. If the single girl’s crown slip off it is said they will marry an old man, but if it stays it will be a young one.
And if we talk about the day before, the women wake up early not just for the flowers, but also to bath in the rivers and then roll down on the morning dew, at the sunrise. It is believed that like this they will stay clean and healthy, they will wash away the diseases and problems and, for those that wish so, there will be higher chances to get pregnant as this is a celebration of fertility among others.
The legends mention the women on the main scene of this celebration where they get in groups of 4 or 6 and dance in circles on a mystical music, to invoke the fertility of the plants, animals and women, and wealth and prosperity of the households.
Image source: wikipedia.com
Some superstitions refer to the weather and crops; for example, if it’s going to rain on this day, the crops will be rich. Yet if the cuckoo will stop singing way before Sânziene, this is a sign that the summer will be hot in the beginning, and then dry.
There is no coincidence that Sânziene are celebrated in the same period when the „skies are opening” for the summer solstice. This is the moment in the agricultural year when the field work stops and the preparations for crop harvesting come.
On the night of the solstice, up hills are lighted big fires around which people wearing belts full of the absinth plant (bitter taste) dance around it. In the end, they throw the belt in the fire together with all their troubles. At the end, big wheels are spun and lighted on fire that symbolise the sun, which have the role to chase away the evil spirits.
If we talk about traditions, we must mention perhaps the most representative and worldwide known clothing article of Romania: ia. Starting with 2013, we celebrate as well the Universal Day of Ie, where ia is the Romanian traditional blouse, the main piece of a folk costume. Ia is exclusively for the female blouse so the femininity is celebrate as well. The variation of colours, motives and shapes of ia differ from village to village, region to region.
Image source: icr.ro
The blouse is sewed from a single piece of linen in the shape of a cross, with an opening in the upper part. Initially made of linen or hemp, and later also silk or cotton. The cotton was used mostly in the northern part of the country, while in the south the most frequent ones were sewed with raw silk.
Ia is in fact a traditional blouse for celebrations and special occasions, reason why you can often see floral, geometrical or nature inspired embroidery and beads decorations around the neck and on the sleeves, with 2-3 colours depending on the region, but also in only 1, usually black, blue or red.
From the beginning of its celebration, the idea of „La Bouse Roumaine” was taken successfully and implemented by hundreds of Romanian communities from all around the world, and so did I.