“If you can tell me the names of 6 famous rabbits, you get a free ride today” said the bus driver this morning to all passengers of the 16Y bus.
Everybody smiled but few tried to give an answer to the bus driver. An adventurous passenger tried, but could only come up with 3 names. Then the other passengers started to chime in: “Roger rabbit”, shouted someone from the back of the bus, “Jessica rabbit” was another suggestion, “the Duracell bunnies” said another person. Soon the bus was bustling with discussions about other famous rabbits – this was probably the most fun bus ride I have ever experienced. It also got me thinking about the upcoming celebration of Easter, which is one of my favorite holidays. It is the sense of community working together, the excitement of having all the family come back together, the delicious home cooked food and the variety of well kept traditions that make me love this holiday!
To be honest, I haven not felt the “Easter spirit” here in DC. Apart from the spring-themed decorations in stores, the Easter-themed foods and enthusiasm about the Egg Roll at the White House, this holiday does not seem to be present in the social life of Americans.
I am an orthodox. My uncle is an orthodox priest in a small parish made up of 3 villages in a mountainous region of Transylvania called “The Woodlanders”. We are sort of a big family, with numerous cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents and such. As far as I can remember, a constant in my life has been the excitement of the Easter period preparations and celebrations. This is the first time ever when I will not spending Easter with my family and I thought I would share some of our traditions, with the double intention of presenting a bit of my culture the other Atlas Corps Fellows and providing a sort of sense of sliding back in my comfort zone, by recounting the familiar events I am accustomed to around this time of the year and which now make me miss home.
This is how I have always experienced Easter. Romania is a country filled with folklore and traditions vary from region to region greatly. Do not take this as the regular norm but more of a personal account of a general holiday. When talking about Easter, there are several important symbols which are present in all the traditions related to this holiday. These symbols include:
- the egg: it symbolizes resurrection. Red-died eggs make reference to the red blood of Christ and also serve to keep evil away.
- the lamb: represent the victory of life over death. Also the lamb symbolizes the Savior who sacrificed himself for the sins of the world and died on the cross as an innocent lamb.
- pasca – it is a traditional Easter pie made of yeast dough with a sweet cottage cheese filling at the center. The legend of the “pasca” tells the story of how when Jesus was preaching with his apostles, he was hosted at the house of a very welcoming man who packed bread for Jesus and the apostles when they left his house, without Jesus and the apostles being aware they had bread in their bags. The apostles asked Jesus when Easter will be celebrated and Jesus answered “when we will find bread in our bags”. Looking in their bags, the apostles found the bread that the man had put in. Ever since then, women have been baking “pasca” for Easter.
- the candle/Holy Light – is the candle the church goers receive during the Easter service. This light represents the victory of life over death and the victory of the light of Jesus over the darkness of sin. It is custom to keep the candle from the Easter service all throughout the year in homes and light it whenever there are great troubles.
The most important period for Easter in the community where my uncle serves as priest is the week before Easter Day or the Holy Week. During this week, one must clean their house thoroughly, from top to bottom because “the house will put a curse on you if it is dirty for Easter” (one of the many superstitions that are present in the rural life). Usually, on Thursday before Easter the women get most of the baking done: they make the “pasca”, special cake called “cozonac”. Also this is when the priest does a special service to holly the bread and wine which will be used for the Easter service. Before the service, people from the village community come to church to help clean up and prepare the church for Easter Sunday. On Good Friday, people go to church for confession and also dye/color the eggs. On Saturday, the rest of the cooking gets done and this is when the men usually sacrifice the lambs – the women cook different traditional meals from the lamb meat to eat at Easter brunch.
My uncle begins doing the Easter service at 5 am on Easter Sunday mainly because he has to officiate 3 different services in the 3 different village churches from his parish and our village church is the last. At the end of the service, all the people at church line up to receive the “body and blood of Christ” represented by the Easter bread and wine mixed together, which they take home in a special cup and eat first thing in the morning, for the next 3 days. After having the bread and wine, we have to eat an apple and then a dyed egg. Usually, people have an “egg fight” competition to find out which of the dyed eggs is the strongest. After church, families go back home to have brunch together and enjoy the wonderful meals prepared by the women in the villages. In recent times, the village community usually comes together again in Sunday afternoon, for a traditional soccer game, to enjoy the nice spring weather and also fight off some of the extra pounds from all the delicious Easter meals!
Happy Easter! Paște fericit și Hristos a înviat! …and can you name 6 famous rabbits?