One of our team members was fortunate to spend Easter in Rimnicu Vilcea celebrating Easter in the traditional Romanian way. Our conclusion was that the celebration of Easter by the Orthodox Christians appears to be a much bigger cultural event than Christmas.
The routine is to go to the local church, arriving at approximately 11:45 pm to be able to get a spot to stand. The mass is broadcast to the surprisingly large throng of people standing outside, and as 12:00 approached it was most definitely standing room only. Just after 12:00 the blessed candle is passed from the church to the masses outside, all clutching their own candles. The light very quickly radiates out from the church door as more and more people light their candles and share the light to the next person.
As the almost sung service continues in the church the crowd joins in with the celebration which is moving to the point of raising hairs on the neck. The initial climax is the priest saying “Hristos a înviat!” or Christ is risen! The crowd dutifully return with “Adev?rat a înviat!” or Truly, He is risen! Once this point is passed many of the congregation outside the church disperse, clutching their candles closely to keep the flame alive.
At this point driving through Rimnicu Vilcea was a major challenge as the entire city was on the streets, everyone carrying their candles and creating quite a festive air for the wee hours of the morning. The main street was closed by the police to protect the huge crowd still gathered around one of the churches but everyone was pretty chilled and in a good mood.
The next step for most people is to go home and break the fast (some of them) with a meal of traditional Romanian dishes. From what we were able to see (and eat!) the meal starts with decorated eggs (swiftly peeled), drob (made with minced organs – don’t ask) accompanied by spring onions, horseradish and mustard with some cheese on the side. The tradition is to knock the point of the egg with your neighbour whilst repeating the Hristos a înviat – Adev?rat a înviat phrase, which recurs throughout Easter every time you meet someone. The starting snack is then followed by some traditional ciorba (soup), then lamb and turkey. If this sounds heavy for the early hours of the morning then yes, it was, but the tuica washed it all down very nicely. Bed followed swiftly after all of this early morning consumption.
Sunday gets off to a slow start, but the sun shone and the food levels have subsided slightly. This is just as well as the next stage is lunch. This is mysteriously similar to the repast of the early hours but with what appeared to be larger quantities of everything. Not to be outdone, we tucked in with gusto, once again enjoying the different flavours enhanced by the eye watering horseradish. Then came the deadly surprise – five different types of dessert. The challenge was choosing between cozonac, pasca, chocolate cake, tort and tiramisu (a throwback to Roman tradition?). After another similar pattern emerged as post lunch many people took a tactical snooze, peaceful in the knowledge that there was plenty of food left on the table and that the tuica stock was not even close to exhaustion.
Having survived the challenge to eat and drink our own bodyweight in 24 hours, can’t wait for next year!!