Unheard of Easter Traditions of Romania and Slovakia

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As I am driving from Campulung towards Maramures in the Eastern Carpathians of Romania, the green carpet of the Bucovina’s forested crest mesmerises my eyes. The fluffy clouds try hard to kiss the Golden Bistrița River. But the most striking feature on this route is the ‘museum village’ of Ciocanesti, which was declared as the cultural village of Romania in 2014.

The ‘museum village’ of Ciocanesti, Romania

Streets of The ‘museum village’ of Ciocanesti, Romania

The Community centre at the ‘museum village’ of Ciocanesti, Romania

The walls of about 600 houses exhibit traditional motifs found on painted eggs in an array of shapes and colours. Time and place seem irrelevant in front of the charming houses and the Museum of Dyed Eggs, which houses over 1,800 rare valuable items. Looking at my excitement, my Romanian friend Cecilia Enache of Viadora Travel, asks me to visit Romania during Easter holidays saying,

Easter is the most important festival in Romania as 96% of the Romanians are Orthodox Christians. Many traditions are woven around Easter and it is considered as the Crown of all the feasts. This festival reminds us that death is not the last and final word. After all, death was defeated by Jesus through his Resurrection.

Before I visited Romania and Slovakia, I had no clue how big Easter is in this region. Here are some of the rare customs and traditions I discovered:

Decorating and Tapping of Easter Eggs

The most important and widespread Easter tradition in Romania is decorating the eggs – you will find them in every house, at every Easter meal, at each church and even at picnics. How the eggs are decorated varies from one region to other. The decorated eggs are always present on the Easter table, and everyone participates in the egg tapping competitions.

Easter Eggs of Romania

As I walk through the Ciocanesti village which organizes a National Festival of Decorated Eggs, my local friend cum guide Raluca Veres of Downshift Travel sheds light on the Easter Eggs tapping tradition,

People who knock eggs on the first day of Easter will see each other after death. The first person who taps the egg must say, “Christ has resurrected” (in Romanian, ‘Cristos a înviat’), while the second one goes “Indeed, he has resurrected” (in Romanian, ‘Adevarat a înviat’). The belief is that the person whose eggs are unbroken will enjoy the longest life.

While strolling through the village, I see a giant Easter egg in the middle of community ground which piques my interest to see the actual process of decorating an Easter Egg. Deep in the heart of Bukovina, in Vama I visit an Egg Museum and Workshop run by a world-renowned artist, Letitia Orsivschi.

Letitia Orsivschi at the Eggs Museum, Romania

In the museum, there are over 7,000 decorated eggs from 80 countries in different shapes, sizes and designs: bird eggs, reptile eggs, large-sized and small-sized eggs (emu, nandu, turtles, crocodile, flamingo, geko, ostrich, partridge, sparrow, pigeon eggs) and porcelain eggs among others. I was lucky to see Mrs. Letitia Orsvischi herself demonstrate the painstaking art of decorating eggs. It is a highly technical job that requires a lot of hard work, patience, and a special skill.

Letitia Orsivschi demonstrating the Egg painting process of Romania

Letitia Orsivschi demonstrating the Egg painting process of Romania

Feasting on the special Easter Meal

If there was a prize for loving the lamb, cheese, and cozonac the most, Romania would win hands down. Anda Maxim, the Co-founder of Pura Vida Hostel shares the details of what makes an Easter meal so special,

The main star of our Easter meal is lamb meat, which is served with a traditional dish like drob. Easter meal involves a large variety of Easter bread and cakes. We bake “pască”, a delicious bread made with cheese, cream and raisins. Another Easter special is “Cozonac cu Nuca” a sweet bread made with raisins and walnuts. A loaf of cozonac and a few red eggs are usually the alms gift, a traditional give away which is believed to feed the souls of those who have died.

Romanian Easter Meal: “pască”, a delicious bread made with cheese, cream and raisins

Romanian Easter Meal: “pască”, a delicious bread made with cheese, cream and raisins

Traditional Easter dish of Lamb

Traditional Easter dish of Lamb

While Romania celebrates Easter in an orthodox way, it’s neighbour Slovakia does it in a quirky style.

Whipping and Pouring Water on females

It’s my third day in Central Slovakia and I am exploring the fairytale-like little town of Bojnice. This small little town might have a population of five thousand people only but it packs a punch when it comes to national attractions like the country’s oldest zoo, one of the oldest spa towns, and the most visited castle (Bojnice Castle). My guided tour of the 12th century Gothic and Rennaissance styled Bojnice Castle takes me back to the romantic Medieval Period. Looking at the grandeur of the Castle I am not surprised to know why it has appeared in so many international films and is a base of an annual International Festival of Ghosts and Monsters. While I am soaking the mesmerising beauty of this charming little hamlet, my Slovakian friend Andrea Malatova of Bojnice Travel narrates a beautiful Easter story from her childhood,

Bojnice looks extra beautiful during Easter Holidays as it signals the arrival of Spring. But Easter gave me a lot of grief when I was a kid (jokingly) because my naughty brother would pour a bucket full of icy cold water when I would still be in my bed under the pretext of following an Easter tradition. The funny part was that he would get rewarded for this action.

Erik Sevcik, the owner of Adventoura Slovakia, further adds to Andrea’s point on why Whipping and Pouring Water on Easter Monday is one of the most beloved traditions in Slovakia:

This tradition is believed to bring health and beauty to the females.

Like Romania, Slovakia has its other specials too – Wired Easter eggs and Easter bread called ‘paska’.

Do you know about any unique Easter tradition? I would love to know your thoughts.

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A section of this story has been published in following Publications:

Sakal Times: Celebrating Easter

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Disclaimer

I was invited to Romania to attend Experience Romania & Experience Bucharest. I also visited Slovakia at the invitation of Slovakia Travel. Everything expressed above is based on my personal experience and conversations I had in the countries. Images used are either shot by me or provided by my local contacts with due permissions

 

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19 Comments

  • Danik says:

    Love reading this post and love finding out about local traditions. I been to both countries but not around Easter time but would love to have seen some of this like the Whipping and Pouring Water on Easter Monday. That sounds like crazy fun and would love to do this also.

  • We have a few Easter traditions here, but none that involve whipping or pouring water that I know about. The traditional Easter lamb does look pretty amazing, I’d love to find a recipe to try for myself

  • Those Romanian eggs are some of the most beautiful eggs I have seen anywhere. I want one now for sure. I love hearing about odd egg traditions (we Colemans have a long history in the egg business). Hitting your eggs together with ritualistic says to gain favor in the afterlife is pretty dang cool.

  • Indrani says:

    I wasn’t aware of any of these traditions, but what fun actually! Lovely story by Andrea Malatova on the water splashing tradition. 😀 Reminds me so much our own Holi festival.

  • Claire says:

    The painted eggs are so beautiful! And the Easter meal in Romania sounds delicious! I’m not as keen on the Slovakian tradition though, I don’t think being pretty is really worth getting doused in icy water!! But, each to their own I suppose!!

  • Eva says:

    Wow, I did indeed never hear of whipping water on females as an Easter tradition. Especially if it is ice cold. That sounds pretty cruel :-O Now I know when not to travel to Romania and Slovakia haha Thanks for sharing!

  • Lisa says:

    What a fun Easter tradition! I can relate to many of these traditions, but it’s great to read about these Romanian traditions and see how they celebrate. I don’t think I’d be good at decorating the eggs, but would love to join in the water splashing in Slovakia! Looks like fun!

  • Rosemary says:

    Always fascinating to read about traditions in different countries. I have to say, I’ve never seen such beautiful eggs. So intricately designed. Love the different special Easter dishes in Romania and especially the lamb. It looks divine!!

  • Jennifer says:

    The eggs are incredibly ornate and beautiful! The time it must take to create the detail on those eggs has to be forever. I’m not sure I’d have the patience for it. I used to get impatient just coloring our eggs with my mom for Easter.

  • If pouring a bucket of water on my head will bring me health and beauty bring it on. These are fascinating traditions. I’d never heard of egg tapping! The intricate Easter eggs are absolutely stunning.

  • Ami Bhat says:

    Such an interesting insight into the local traditions. And very very intriguing too. Those easter eggs have been painted so beautifully . It was nice to hear the history behind the tradition of tapping the eggs too. Wish I could witness this in person.

  • Paige W says:

    What a beautiful set of traditions. One of my dear friends does the Ukrainian version of painting the eggs. It looks very similar, but it’s done with wax and then dyed. Her art studio is just stunning and the eggs are meant to be displayed year-round. I know I would not like to have a bucket of cold water poured on me! That sounds terrible!

  • Medha Verma says:

    The Easter eggs look so so cool! But the whipping and pouring of water of women is just hilarious! I hope to visit Romania soon, the museum village looks superb!

  • Nathan says:

    Thanks for sharing about these quirky, interesting cultural celebrations that the locals there in Romania and Slovakia embark on for Easter. We don’t really celebrate it here in Singapore, so it’s really cool checking out those beautiful Easter eggs. The pouring of water on women definitely reminds me of Songkran in Thailand!

  • Ada says:

    I love travelling on easter and learn about traditions around the world. Iam from Poland and we also paint our eggs like that, sometimes with very simple colours and sometimes very very details and unique ways. We also have this pouring water tradition. I remember when I was little I had so much fun with kids from my neighbourhood 🙂

  • Lauren Pescarus says:

    I just went through my first Easter in Romania, and it was just as special as you described. Completely different than what we celebrate in the U.S. I’m glad I wasn’t in Slovakia, though, as much as I’m sure the cold water would make me beautiful 😉

  • Nicola says:

    My mum always used to make us blow eggs at easter, paint them and then hang them on an ‘Easter Tree’. She would LOVE one of those beautiful Romanian eggs to add to her collection. Now I’m going to have to go! Sounds like a really interesting time to visit Romania.

  • Neha says:

    Beautiful picture post and location. this place only reminds me of fairytale, no wonder people here looked very happy and peaceful . Easter sure is the time to visit here. I cant wait to participate in the egg decoration ritual and take few classes to learn the art too . In love with Romania already .

  • Bhusha says:

    OMG Medha! The museum village’s building looks almost like Indian traditional buildings. Its almost like needle painting. So intricate!!! Pouring water is also like Holi! Gotta look into the other similarities in our cultures…

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