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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A section of this story has been published in following Publications:
Sakal Times: Celebrating Easter
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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