Romanian Religious Traditions

The belief in Resurrection and immortality is prevalent in orthodox religion. Romanians do the so-called „charities” for their deads by cooking different specific meals for each celebration. The most important is Coliva, a sweet wheat porridge which is cooked everytime someone dies, for the funerals or on a religious celebration, when the deads are mentioned. The „coliva” is placed on a plate, decorated with the cross sign on top and is brought to the church for the priest’s blessing. The „coliva” signifies the human body that has to be buried for coming back to life, afterwards. The same as the wheat grain rises from the ground and grows into a new plant after is sowed, so will resurrect into eternal life the soul of the one deceased and buried. This is the Romanians’ hope and belief. Boiling, the wheat grains bond to each other, symbolizing the connection between the members of the church. The connection to the deceased is made by holding the plate with „coliva” and dangling it from upside down, while the priest sings the Eternal Prayer.

The biggest deads’ commemorations, whom are called „old men” or „ancestors”, are The Winter Old People (in February) and The Summer Old People (in June). On these occasions, the believers go to the church with „coliva” and bread rolls for receiving the priest’s blessing, then give it for charity to the poors. The Old People’s tradition is about giving for charity „coliva” and a small bowl full with milk rice and, for The Summer Old Men, the same „coliva” given with cherries on the top of the bowl. Everyone gives for charity what he has, only that it’s important to be given with faith and Christian love. Charity includes clothes too. On Christmas and Easter, the most important Christian celebrations, the Romanians prepare lots of special and tasty meals, and they don’t forget to give for charity in the memory for their dead’s souls. Both on the Christmas morning and in the Ressurection Night (this is the name for the Easter’s Eve night) before eating the meals they’ve prepared, Romanians first have to give some of the food to the poors.

The Resurrection Night is magic and we all live it with faith and emotion. This is the night when we go to the church to receive the Ressurection Light which is the symbol of life winning against death, and of the Jesus light victory against darkness. After a long six weeks of vegeterian diet, the longest diet of the year, during which we are purifying both body and soul, we are looking forward to this night when we’ll bring this Holly Light into our homes, helping us to become better people, straight and getting us able to change in better all our existence. Since evening or even earlier, both young and old believers would come to the church with humbleness and bashfulness to assist to the Ressurection liturgy. Also parents even carry their babies to receive the Lord’s Ressurection miracol. The night has a special charm, each of us feels the great event coming and tries to prepare his soul. You feel like a quiet inside you, like an inner peace, such as you won’t feel on another day. We go to the church close to midnight, and as we get out, we see the street crowded with people, our neighbors, who get out of their buildings and go to the church too, in groups, staying close together with their families and friends, each one with a candle in his/her hands. Outside is quiet and peace, even nature seems connected to the magic of this night. We are passing by the fresh and fragrant lane formed by the lime trees along the street, with fresh young leaves, thrilled by the chilly air of the spring night. A soft breeze blows but until we arrive to the church it stops. Even the rain fears to drop on this holly night : although it has rained a few drops before midnight, now as we were going to the church it has stopped, like through a magic!

Our small church seems not big enough for so many believers who are coming on this night, so most of them stop and stay outside in the street, from where they can see the liturgy on a big screen, arranged in the church yard. While we’re staying there, in the street, we can see the priest who gets out in the garden and surrounds the church with a big candle in his hand, bringing us the Resurrection Light. We hear the bells knelling and feel a big emotion. The crowd begins to vibrate, we hear whispers, then we see the first people who succeded to receive the light coming! I’m going straight to one of them for lighting my candle, and with a big emotion in my voice, I tell him : „Jesus Christ Has Resurrected!”. He answers me : „He has trully Resurrected!”. This is the greeting we’ll have to use instead of „Good morning!” or „Good evening!” until the celebration of the Rising. The Rising of Jesus is another religious celebration which we’ll be celebrating with „cozonac” and painted eggs too, like we do on the Easter. In the meantime, the priest begins to sing : „Jesus Christ Has Ressurected / Stepping with death over death / And to those from the graves / Giving life!” Anyone who has heard this song before knows what a thrill these words gives to you and how you start singing it together with all the believers, who are surrounding the church, in a row, following the priest with the light candles in their hands. I come back with the light to my husband and he lights up the candle too.

Then we are going home with such joy and emotion, keeping the lighting candle in our hand, like a precious treasure, keeping it out from the softly breeze. People are passing by us carefully with their lit candles in their hands, going straight to their homes where the special meals, cooked by the house-wives due to this great celebration, are waiting to be served. We are passing through the green lane again with a young leaves and burnt candles scent and we „get drunk” by the quiet of the night and the Resurrection magic, while the Holly Light reveals our emotion which we are sharing with all the Romanian people. It’s like I could see the Romanian map formed by millions of candles lighted with the Resurrection Light, spreading the miracle outside the borders, bringing some peace and faith to this crazy world. Once we are home, we put the candle in front of the Virgin Mary (we call her The Lord’s Mother) icon, where it will burn out for three days continously, as long as the Easter celebration lasts. Then we give to one of our neighbors a piece of each meal for charity. Peacefully, we sit around the table, knock a red colored egg with each other, eat a piece of the cake called „cozonac”, some „drob” (baked mixture of the lamb’s organs : liver, lungs and heart) and roast lamb with green garlick and onion, then we drink a glass of red wine, for our Lord Jesus Christ Resurrection.

Every year, on the 9th of March, we are celebrating the martyrdom of the 40 Saints Martyrs of Sevasta, who have been killed for their belief in Jesus, by drowning in a lake. They have been called „mucenici” (martyrs) because they were tortured in order to give up to their faith and this sufference for a religious belief is called „mucenicie”, in English – martyrdom. For their mentioning, we cook some delicious cookies 8 shaped, which have the same name : „mucenici”. There are 2 kinds of „mucenici” depending by the region where they are cooked :

    • the „mucenici” made in Wallachia (mucenici soup)
      are very small, cooked like noodles, with water,
      sugar, cinnamon and walnuts;

 

  • the „mucenici” cooked in the Moldavia
    region are baked, put in orange syrup,
    then honey and walnuts all over.

I cook both of these cookies and, therefore, I can give you the recipes, perhaps you’d like to cook it yourselves.

1. Little Moldavian „Saints

Ingredients for the dough :
  • 1/2 kg of wheat flour (2 cups)
  • 25 g fresh yeast
  • 150 g melted butter (3/4 cup)
  • a teaspoonful of salt
  • 250 ml warm milk (1 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 spoons of sugar
  • vanilla, rhum essences
Ingredients for the syrup :
  • 150 g sugar ( 1/2 cup)
  • 150 ml water (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 of an orange peel (grated)
Ingredients for the topping :
  • 250 g honey (1 cup)
  • 250 g grounded walnuts (1 cup)

Prepare a dough from the aforementioned ingredients. The dough must be elastic, fluffy and not to stick on hands. Add more flour if sticks. Leave it for an hour in a warm place to grow until doubles its volume. Meanwhile, preheat the oven. When the dough has lightened enough, divide it into several equal parts, about 12-14. Take each part, make thin rolls, like a finger diameter and give it the shape of the number 8. Stick very well the ends by pressing them to each other. Then put the parts in griddles and let them lighten more for another 20 minutes. Spread each „little saint” over the top with egg yolk, then you can introduce the griddles into the preheat oven at 180°C (350°F) – which is a moderate temperature – for 30 minutes, till they get a little brown. Meanwhile boil the sugar, water and orange graded peel to make the syrup. Let it cool. When the „mucenici” are ready, take them out of the oven and, immediately, dip one by one into the syrup for a few seconds, on each surface, to get moist. Arrange them on a tray and let cool, then cover each one with honey and roll it in grounded walnuts. Good appetite!

2. Romanian Mucenici Soup
(pronounced as „moo-cheh-neech”)
Ingredients :
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar, at your taste
  • 1 cup grounded walnuts
  • 1 cinnamon stick and powder
  • 1 spoonful of lemon and orange peel (graded)
  • vanilla and rhum essences
  • purchased small pasta shapes.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and water into a mixing bowl, to make an elastic dough, rather tough and knead it for a few minutes. If sticks, add more flour. Form into a ball, cover and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Pinch small pieces of dough (as it comes between 3 fingers), roll it between your palms into a long, thin cylinder (about 1/4 inch = 6 cm) that just can wrap arround your finger. Put the edges together to form a ring, then twist the middle to form an 8. Flour your hands and the work surface as many times as you need. After you finish forming each little 8 (mucenic), place it on a flour-covered dish or waxed paper. Let dry for a few hours (better make them a day before cooking). In Romania, we have a special 8-shaped tool and we cut the 8’s from the spreaded dough (5 mm = 0,2 in) thick.

Fill a large pot (of 3 liters = 101, 44 fl.oz capacity) to 3/4 full with water, add a teaspoon of salt and turn to boil. When boiling, drop the pasta shapes into the liquid, turn to boil again, then lower the heat to moderate. Stir gently to be sure the pastas don’t stick on the bottom of the pot, then let boil to low heat for half an hour, if the pastas are homemade. Otherwise, boil the pastas according to the instructions on the package. If using homemade pastas, they will normally be finished cooking once all the pastas have floated from the top of the water to the bottom. When the pastas have been cooked, add sugar to taste, then bring to boil again over high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and let cool. Add cinnamon stick, a spoon of lemon and orange graded peel (be sure to avoid using the white part, which will make the soup bitter), vanilla and rhum essences. Stir 1/4 of the grounded walnuts with 1-2 spoons of cold water until whitened, then pour some soup, stir, then add this mixture into the soup pot and stir well. Transfer the soup into a large bowl and place it in the refrigerator until cool. Serve in bowls, with a spoonful of grounded walnuts and cinnamon powder on top. Good appetite!

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