In the 5 months that I have been here, I have celebrated 8+ birthdays: 2 host mothers, 2 host sisters, a few fellow PCVs, and some host family friends! Yesterday, I celebrated my current host sister’s birthday and missed my uncle’s birthday (back in the US). This got me thinking about the differences of birthday celebrations in Moldova versus in America.
Two Host Mothers’ Birthdays, How did That Happen?
I feel very lucky to have been able to celebrate 2 host mothers’ birthdays. A mix of fate, when Peace Corps sends volunteers to Moldova, and site selection all played a role. I stayed with two hosts families; one for my first 10 weeks here and now my current family for the remaining two years of my service. In both cases, within a week of my time at each house, my host mother had her birthday. I’m really not sure how this happened, but I do know I was blessed to be welcomed into both host families to be able to celebrate such amazing woman.
Family and Food
At my first Moldovan host family, this celebration happened in early summer, so we ate outside and extended family (mother’s sisters, aunts, and father all showed up). The table was layered with all types of food. Yes, you read that correct. Layered. There was so much food. Fish. Cucumbers. Tomatoes. Chicken. Placinte. Stuffed peppers. Bread. So much food to keep you stuffed for days. A mini thanksgiving as it were.
At my current site, my host mother’s birthday fell on a weekend. This worked well for me as I did not have to work. So I was able to spend more time with her and my extended family. In similar fashion, my host mom had her sister, children, and grandchildren all over. To celebrate, a bar-b-Que was thrown. There were all types of meat, two types of salads, and even ketchup!
For birthday celebrations, it seems everyone is given sparkling wine, followed by cognac. Actually, this seems like a pretty familiar thing for almost all celebrations in Moldova. Homemade wine is also given out at special celebrations. For my current host family, they usually have a liter or two of Coke available to drink as well. It’s worth noting that toasts are given to the those celebrating their birthday. Usually something like “La mulţi ani!” and “Fii sănătos.” (Happy birthday and be happy. Both are ways to wish many years and good health on others.)
Let’s not forget Dessert!
What celebration wouldn’t be complete without cake? Maybe that’s just my sweet tooth talking. All the birthdays I have gone to have had cake (tort). The difference between American cake and Moldovan is that it seems that most cakes here are bought from the store. Moldovan cakes are delicious, but are different than the American cakes I have eaten. While American cakes tend to be one layer of cake with icing on top, Moldovan cakes tend to be cake-icing-cake-icing. And the icing and cake layers can be different kinds of each other. As an example, the icing in the middle of the cake yesterday, was chocolate with cherry pieces, while the top layer of icing was only chocolate. Moldovan cakes seem to be kept at a cooler temperature (maybe stored in a refrigerator) than their American counter parts. (I’m sorry, I have no pictures. I usually devour a piece of cake before I can remember to take a picture. Can not guarantee I will ever get a picture in 2 years. Stay tuned to find out.)
Milestone Year Celebrations!
In America, it seems at milestone years, 30, 40, 50, etc. we have big celebrations and many people attempt to throw surprise parties. Well, I can not speak on how rampant surprise parties are in Moldova, but I can say, milestone parties happen. I went to a 50th birthday celebration for my host mother’s friend. It was not a surprise party by any means, but one of her relatives who now lives in Los Angeles came back and surprised her. The party itself took place at a restaurant. There were many of her friends and family there to celebrate such a joyous occasion. There was so much food and dancing. I watched and observed for a lot of the night, but with a Moldovan-American there, I was shown the moves to some of the Moldovan dances! At one point, one of my host mom’s friends said “Bravo!” to me, which felt like a big compliment (I might be reaching here; regardless, I know many people were glad that I even tried.)
It’s nice to see that all though there are some major differences with Moldovan and American celebrations, it’s nice to see there are so many similarities. Although the foods might not be the same, both countries celebrate in similar ways that can be boiled down to: expressing love and gratitude for each other.
I hoped you enjoyed. Remember to like, subscribe, and share if you did. Now go have a nice cup of joe.
La mulţi ani Grandpa Lutz! And La mulţi ani Jason! You both might be thousands of miles away, but I did not forget your birthdays! So I raise my glass to you and toast. Hai noroc! Mulţi ani! Fii sănătos!