Saturday, April 26, 2008

Blood Red Easter eggs


Romanian folklore offers several legends to explain why the Easter eggs here are painted red instead of the mint greens, baby blues, pink pale pastels , and rarely reds, of my home country.In the USA (SUA) Easter is much less a purposeful act of resurection as it is an act of fun, camplike activities. I have seen no easter egg rolls, or lawn hunts yet. Chocolate eggs and bunnies are making inroads here. But then, why not. It is, after all, chocolate! And western.

The legend says the Virgin Mary, who came to mourn her crucified son, laid a basket with eggs near the cross. They turned red from the blood that flowed down from Jesus' wounds. The Lord, seeing that the eggs reddened, said to those who were there: "From now on, you too shall paint the eggs in red to remember my crucifixion, as I did today."

Easter is the most important event in the Orthodox Christian calendar.

Traditionally, celebrations in Romania begin on the Saturday evening.

Ppeople gather round the churches bringing candles. At the Resurrection Mass just before midnight, the priest comes out to distribute holy bread, give a blessing and provide the flame from which everyone will light their candles which they are suppossed to keep aflame until they arrive home.

At home the the brothers and cousins and parents and children and grands all come together for a special Easter meal usually of Roast lamb and home-made cozonac (sponge cake with nuts and poppy seeds).

This morning, walking the dog through one of the nicer neighborhoods in Bucharest, the streets were wafted full of the smells of some wonderful restaurant I wish I could have made reservations for.

I will try to stay awake tonight, find a nearby church and bring a camera and a candle.

Whether you are Romanian or something else, Paste fericit (pash-tay fairy-cheat), Happy Easter.

Monday, April 21, 2008

palm sunday peasant fair


Here the religion is Eastern Orthodox, and Petre Cottontail comes hoppin' down the bunny trail later than in the West. Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and next Sunday, April 27th will be the day Easter is celebrated. (Julian calendar vs. Gregorian - Julian won here) So I braved the Bucharest traffic, invoked my Parking Karma, and took myself and camera to the yearly peasant craft fair at the Peasant Museuum (where else?) of Bucuresti.

Come along. You'll have a very peasant time.

Peasant Fair Bucharest


Painted Eggs
The famed painted eggs, especially prominent around Easter time, are the most readily recognizable examples of Romanian folk art. Intricate patterns were actually secret languages known only to residents of the regions where they were painted. Painting of real hollowed-out eggs was an integral part of preparations for this festival of renewal. Women and children gathered in someone's home and spent a day painting and gossiping.

One of the most beautiful Romanian Easter traditions is painted eggs. Egg shells are dyed in colorful patterns and decorated with folk motifs. Designs are made with an implement called a condei or chisita - a small cartridge filled with paint with a sharp point on the end. There are a myriad of motifs used on painted eggs. The most popular ones are the cross, the star, the sun, the wave, the zigzags, and stylized flowers. Sometimes motifs are applied using natural leaves. Traditionally, it's the women who paint Easter eggs, and they have to do it on the Thursday before Easter. Women are not supposed to do any work on the Friday before Easter. Sunday Easter morning the painted eggs are tapped together with the words "Hristos a Inviat - Adevarat a Inviat" - "Christ is Risen - He is Risen indeed." This beautiful ritual precedes the Easter breakfast. For forty days people, especially in the countryside, greet each other with these words.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Romania For Rookies Pt 2:


Chapters 2 & 3, Double Subsets 1 & 2

Chapter 2: Romanian Reality Time

  1. (as opposed to that standard time on your ordinary ol’ average 12 or 24 hour timex or swatch) runs at about a ratio of 1 to 5 (or 6). That is, when a Romanian says to you “I’ll just be five more minutes.” Pull out your ipod and open up another chapter of Ludlum’s latest, or Madonna’s newest incarnation and be prepared to hear the whole chapter or spin through every cut. You will most likely be hunkered down in wait mode for at least 25 minutes. Maybe (jumatate ore) half an hour. (zhew-ma–tah-tay or-eh). Multiply out on your own for number of days it takes to clear anything though a Romanian Government Registry, no matter what they promise you. (See Romanian Paralytic Politeness – coming in curand (soon)!)
  2. Unless we are talking traffic time here. With traffic time, in Bucharest at least, always plan your meeting to start a minimum of one ora after your announced start time if the meeting is to take place from multiple departure points to anywhere else across the city, or across more than 6 city blocks occupied by actual autos.

Bucharest is beginning to make downtown Tokyo traffic look like a lazy, breezy afternoon drive in the country.

Chapter 3: Baker Beware!

  1. If you are buying shelled walnuts here, they will have shells in them. Teensy little bits of that drywall separator between brain-shaped halves or crunchy little tooth crumbles of actual shells themselves. Don’t fret though. Romanian dentistry is both cheap and good.

  2. Things that look like raisins, currents or yellow saltanas, if they aren’t from Sun Maid or Dole, will have seeds in them. This is a crunchy kind of place.
Quality control here is not yet what it will be.

It’s Spring. And Bucharest smells of lilacs and cat piss.
No, not the effect that you get when your mother sprays glade in the room with the litterbox. Actual lilacs. The town, or at least my Florasca neighborhood, is crowned with whole trees full of them.

I have theories about this. The lilacs I understand. And love. And have always loved. And mourn that they aren’t now a year round enjoyable like tomatoes from Chile. But only grace us briefly in the springtime.

But as to the feline streaming aromatic contribution I can only postulate that it has been frozen on solid ground from winter till thaw, and only now has pungently, er, blossomed.

Choose carefully where you choose to inhale here.