Traditional Easter in Maramures
Choosing a private tour during the Easter period in Romania may be one of the most authentic travel experiences you will ever have...
The weather at this time of year is considerably warmer compared to Christmas and this makes an Easter private tour very pleasant.
Ninety percent of Romanians belong to the Orthodox religion and Easter is a huge celebration observed all over Romania. Those of the Catholic faith comprise approximately five percent of our population and they celebrate Easter at a different time, usually just before the Orthodox celebration. This is because the Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar while Catholics follow the Gregorian one.
Five weeks before the observance of the Orthodox Easter, the Lenten fast begins. At this time devout believers begin eating organic food of non-animal origin. This usually means having a plant based menu based on vegetables and fruits. Some people totally abstain from eating specific foods to show their love for God. Others may abstain from drinking alcohol, eating meat or smoking tobacco. However this may not be considered true abstinence by some traditional Orthodox people and priests.
Romanians begin attending church services on Holy Thursday which is also called Maundy Thursday. It represents Washing of the Feet (Maundy) and the Last Supper of Jesus with the Apostles. Good Friday brings crowds of people to the service which commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion. Hence it is a day of mourning.
The Holy Light is observed the night before Easter Sunday at midnight when the largest number of people comes to the church service. Romanians will bring home a candle with the Holy Light from the church which represents the triumph of good over evil. This is also when fasting stops. Many Romanians will break their fast during Easter Sunday lunch with family and friends. Some of the more religious Orthodox Christians will also attend church service on Sunday morning to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus.
Traditional food for Easter in Romania always includes hand painted eggs, lamb and sweet leavened bread (“cozonac” or “pasca”). The eggs are usually painted on Holy Thursday. Then, after the Saturday midnight service, family members will begin the tradition of “egg tapping” contests. Two people will each choose one painted egg from a basket and tap them against each other twice, once with the top and then with the bottom. The first person who taps the egg says “Christos a Inviat” (Christ has risen). The other person responds “Adevarat a Inviat” which means He has risen indeed.
A few regions in Romania are particularly worth considering if you would like to visit during Easter. However there are two areas which I believe are particularly interesting.
The first is in the Maramures region where traditions are most alive. The culture is truly unique and its people are special. Many customs date back over few hundred years. Attending Easter Sunday service at a local wooden church from the 16th or 17th century in a small village is like a journey back in time. The traditions and costumes are beautiful and the people’s faith in God is evident. If you are lucky enough to find accommodations at a small local guesthouse your hosts will treat you as part of their family. And it’s very possible you may want to come back again!
Attending Easter Sunday service is special and people of all ages will be there. Very young children will be celebrating alongside their great-grandparents and most will be dressed in colorful, traditional clothing. Many will bring food they have prepared themselves to be blessed by the priest. During the service you will hear beautiful music being played and songs being sung. Usually this takes place outdoors as the small wooden churches cannot accommodate the very large number of people in attendance.
Bucovina is the second region in Romania worth considering for your private Easter tour. The people of this region also have interesting traditions although they are unlike those in Maramures. Their culture is most famous for their egg painting traditions. While most Romanians paint eggs in one color, in Bucovina painting eggs is considered an art. Every year an egg painting contest is held and Romanians from other parts of the country are invited to participate. The three museums of Painted Eggs are well known throughout Romania, the most authentic of which is in Ciocanesti village. In fact the village itself is considered a museum. It consists of unique, traditional houses where patterns used on the Easter eggs can be seen. These lovely designs are also embroidered on their traditional clothes.
This description contains only some of the reasons why you might consider a private tour in Romania during the Orthodox Easter celebration. In many parts of Romania these well known traditions are kept alive especially in the Maramures and Bucovina areas. I feel certain that the experiences of those of you who choose to visit during this special time of year will be among the best of your travel memories.
A final note. It’s very important that you plan your travel as early as possible. The most experienced private tour guides are often booked months in advance. Booking accommodations during Easter is another consideration as demand often exceeds availability in rural areas of the country. On a private tour your guide will recommend and book these for you.
Please feel free to contact me for more details if you are considering a private tour for Easter in Maramures!
I will be very happy to help you plan an itinerary which will suit your needs and hopefully exceed your expectations!