On April 28, 2018, many Moldovans and those of the Orthodox faith throughout the world, had their Easter (Paște in Romanian). As someone living in Moldova, I was able to experience and take part in the customs and traditions.
To start off the day, I awoke early to join my host sister and brother-in-law at the church. I woke up at around 2:30 am and we headed to the church by 3:30 am. Yes, it was very early. With the three of us, we brought a basket of foods, mainly breads and eggs.
We arrived outside of the church and set up our area, putting a small blanket out to place some of our food on. It seemed like most families from the village where there; the church was packed (in Orthodox churches, there are no seats, which means it was really packed). Additionally, there were many families lined along the road, within the church grounds.
It was very beautiful to see everyone with the baskets of food spread out and lite up with candles in the dark. Many volunteers experience this throughout Moldova. And I was able to talk to two of my fellow cohort volunteers. They are not religious, but were very moved by the Easter processions. Both even commented on it being one of the highlights of their service. They found everything mesmerizing and were impressed with all they saw. From my point of view, it is hard to describe, but I hope the pictures will do some justice (below this paragraph). My library partner happened to be right next to where we set up -a nice coincidence. I snapped some photos of her bag and bread and eggs lite up with candles. In the background you can see others setting up. Where these photos were taken is about the middle of the pack, with an even amount of people in front of and behind us.
Why Eggs and Bread
The eggs and bread we brought to the church all have significance.
The hard boiled eggs symbolize new life and Jesus rising from the tomb. The eggs we had blessed were dyed red- some through the modern technique that many in the US would be familiar with, such as with modern paint and dye, while others were dyed red using the other layers of onions. This technique was done by my host grandmother. I’ve heard and seen that other volunteers’ families use beet juice to color the eggs red. But why red you ask? Red is the color of life and victory. The early Christians of Mesopotamia stained their eggs red in memory of the precious blood of Christ. There are even some stories that link Mary Magdalene to red Easter Eggs custom. But in short, the red eggs are a symbol of the resurrection.
The bread taken to church is no ordinary time of bread. The bread brought to church to be blessed by the priest was made by my family members. My host sister made the Pasca (which means Easter). This bread is special. It is typically made with cheese and a design (typically a cross) on top. In the photo below, you can see the cut Pasca bread on the table (before a lot of other food was added).
The priest came out and blessed us and the food around 5:30 am or so. By this time, the sun was up and the day had started. Thankfully our masa (meal) was not to happen until closer to noon, so I was able to sleep a little bit.
When our masa came around, many family members also arrived. Already at the house were my host parents, host sisters and brother-in-laws, and host niece. Also showing up included some other relatives and my host sister’s naș and nașa. (These individuals are wedding godparents and it is a big deal and honor in the Moldovan culture.)
Our meal consisted of meats (lamb, batuta -fried and lightly battered flatten chicken breast, one of my favorites, salam, parjoale -kind of like meatballs, and others), fish, salads, vegetables, pasca bread, cozonac bread, and even cake. Needless to say, everything was fresh and so delicious!
Later in the evening, we would have another masa, but at that point, I was still stuffed from the last meal. The whole weekend was great because I got to spend it with so many of my Moldovan family members.
The Next Day
Lucky for me, I had a few days off to celebrate the holiday. For a few of the men (two host brother-in-laws and sister’s nașul) that meant a day to fish. At the time, my host niece and I stayed back and played outside and then UNO. Later on, with my host sisters and host parents, we would join the guys and partake in the fishing expedition. While I was there, a fish was caught, so I even got a picture with it.
The following week kept me busy as my host niece had vacation and was able to stay and visit. (Lots of Scooby Doo was watched and I’m not mad about that one bit!)
Below is the lake (with a fishing pole seen in the foreground) and me smiling with a recently caught fish.
This was an amazing, filled weekend. I hope you learned something new about the celebrations of Orthodox Easter. Did anything surprise you? And If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments below.
During the Easter Season, here in the villages, we greet people with “Hristos a înviat!” (Christ has risen,) and respond with “Adevărat a înviat!” (He truly has risen.) So, until next time, Hristos a înviat!