Customs and traditions from Oas Land
Calinesti-Oas is a village in northern Romania, more specifically, situated in Oas Land. It is a lovely place, full of traditions and beautiful customs. Some of these customs are transmitted from old generations, but unfortunately, many of them are ebing forgotten as time passes by.
Many of these traditions are based on celebrations, meaning that each celebration has specific customs, but also, there are a few customs that are related to other events, such as agricultural events.
I will present here a few customs related to our typical celebrations:
Christmas- is one of the most important religious festivals and that’s why it is respected by everybody. People start preparations from early December. Women clean the house because according to the old saying the house has to be crytal clear on the day when Jesus Christ is born.
Men assist at the slaughter of the pigs, since Christmas fast is over. Housewives prepare many food specialities, like sausages and a traditional dish called “toba”. Women also prepare cakes and sweets for the young carollers, who come at Christmas Eve to sing carols, spreading the news of the infant Jesus’ birth. As a reward for their singing, they will receive sweets and cakes.
In the evening, the family gathers around the Christmas tree to deck it with coloured decorations, and children go to sleep, hoping that old Father Christmas will enter their houses, descending through the chimney, in order to give them presents.
On the first day of Christmas, children open up their presents and prepare to go carolling. People go to the church to pray and to admire the Christmas tree, because, as older people say, there is nowhere such a beautiful Christmas tree as the one from the village’s church. Many young children will sing at the church on this occasion, but people will also wait to see and listen to the “Viflaim”. The “Viflaim” is a typical tradition that consists of Christmas carols and scenes from the life of Jesus, especially scenes representing the story of the Nativity. After participating at this ceremony, people go home and wait for the Viflaim to arrive to their homes. This ritual is performed in the house of every villager who receives the Viflaim.
In the evening, the family gathers around the table to have dinner together. Young girls will be visited in the evening by groups of carollers.
Christmas is a moment of joy in everyone’s life, you can hear the sounds of traditional carols in every house that you enter.
Christmas customs can vary according to the region, but each and every custom has its own charm, ecah and every symbolising the news about our salvation, the news of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is a beautiful celebration and people should try to be better and more understanding at least on these days.
New Year- represents the transition from one year to the other, a transition that is very important for the people from our region. There are many New Year customs that had been forgotten for a long time, but I will present you some of them.
An ancient custom that I have learnt about from my grandmother is the baking of the New Year’s Eve bread. Women used to bake a wheat bread that they laid on “otava”,that being freshly cut grass. They ate that bread in the morning and they called that bread Sfantul Vasai (St. Basil), according to the Orthodox religious celebration.
Nowadays, this tradition is long forgotten, but the tradition of the “New Year carollers” (sorcovisti) is still alive. These people, the “sorcovisti” are young children or even grown-ups who want to earn some money while observing an old tradition. The costumes of these performers were made from rags, so as to scare people. The costumes were representing bears or goats, but nowadays, everyone makes different types of outfits. After performing their ritual good wishes for the oncoming year, they are invited into people’s homes where they are served with drinks and sweets. As a reward for their performance, they are also given money, but they have to take down their masks.
For midnight, housewives prepare carefully many food specialities like: chicken soup, the traditional “sarmale”- minced meat stuffed into cabbage rolls, cakes, home made sausages, wines, “tuica”- a kind of local alcoholic beverage, similar to gin. A few minutes before midnight everyone gets out on the village’s streets in order to make a big fire, symbolic for the light in their lives. A few decades ago, there were no firecrackers, so peoplemade noises with metal pots, wishing “Happy New Year” to each other.
After ten minutes spent in the cold winter night, they hurry back in the house to serve portions from the special food and have a glass of wine. An ancient custom related to New Year was the visit of young girls by groups of boys who were singing and playing a traditional musical instrument, the “cetera”. On New Year’s Dat people go to church and pray.
Easter is a holly celebration which is also a moment of joy for local people, especially for young children.
On Easter’s Friday, local people paint the eggs. Eggs are painted in many colours or with leaf decorations.
On Saturday evening, women prepare the “pasca” a kind of bread, while men slaughter the lamb. Women will then prepare an Easter food, the stuffed lamb. In the evening, the basket “cosarca” is prepared. This basket will be sprinkled with holly water, and the basket traditionally contains two pieces of “pasca”, green wheat, painted eggs, sausages and a slice of stuffed lamb. In the evening everyone goes to attend the Easter ceremony at the church, in order to “take the light”. This tradition consists in lightening each other’s candle, saying “light from the light” (“lumina din lumina”). Obviously, the light stands symbolically for Jesus Christ, the light in our lives, the salvation from our sins.
According to an old tradition, on Sunday’s Easter, in the morning, before attending the sermon, families pour water in a bowl in which they introduce an egg and a coin, children should wash their faces with this water, in order to be rich and healthy. The priest will sprinkle the contents of the basket with holy water. Once arrived home, the whole family gathers around the table to have breakfast together. They eat the contents of the basket, knock the eggs saying “Hristos a inviat” (“Christ has resurrected”). Some parts of the eggshell are kept in the house in order to chase away bad spiris. Children sometimes compete with the knocking of eggs.
Whitsunday- celebrated on the 24th of June has a typical tradition, namely the picking up of linden branches. These branches will decorate the gates in front of the villagers’ houses. Linden seads will be spread over the graves of the deceased members of the family and the priest will perform a religious ceremony at the wooden cross situated at the outskirts of the village.
Palm Sunday- on Palm Sunday, people go to church with branches of willow tree, called also “ mate”, these branches will be blessed by the priest, and then the branches will bring good luck and health to people.
Epiphany- From the early hours of Epiphany morning the priest starts visiting the villagers’ houses. Children will announce the fact that the priest is arriving soon, by shouting “Chira Leisa”. The priest will bless the houses and their inhabitants and the children will be given nuts and sweets. In the evening women will tour the house shouting “Chira Leisa”, having in their hands a loaf of bread and a candle. According to the folk wisdom, if they do so, nothing bad will happen in that house.
Bedstraw- This tradition is related to small flowers that are picked in order to make floral wreaths. Usually the eldest member of the family is the one who should prepare these wreaths. Later on these wreaths will be laid on the graves of the deceased members of the family. This tradition as well, is supposed to bring luck.
The wedding- is a very important event in Calinesti- Oas. The preparations start one week before the actual wedding. On Sunday the bride will dress with a dress called “pindileu” and she will wear on her head a wreath. The wreath is decorated with beads and grits. The bridegroom is dressed in a “niesoi” and on his head he wears a typical hat, the “clop” that is decorated with feathers. The newlyweds will go to the official wedding dressed in traditional costumes, but for the religious wedding ceremony they will wear the traditional white wedding dress and a dark suit for the bridegroom. Back in the past, there were special games that were played at the wedding party, such as “gaina” (“ the hen”), “steagul” (“the flag”), but nowadays these are not observed anymore.
There are other folk traditions that are related to the changing of the seasons and to the harvest of the crops.
The vintage- the whole family participates at the vintage, the light, sweet drink called “ must” that is drunk by children and the wine are obtained after the vintage.
The harvest of the corn- this again is an agricultural work done by the whole family. There is a custom related to the harvest of the corn, everyone is looking for red corns, if a person finds red corn he/ she can name someone else as “slave” until this person doesn’t find himself a red corn cob.
The harvest of the sunflower seeds- the parents cut down the flowers of the sunflowers and the children are supposed to hit the flowers with heavy rods until all the seeds fall out, so as that they could gather the seeds in sacks.
The harvest of the nuts- the men are supposed to shake the nut trees, and after that the children and the women gather the nuts.
The building of the house- in Calinesti- Oas even the building of the house has typical traditions. After the building is ready, everyone helps at the building of the roof. On the top of the roof they put a bottle of “palinca” and a towel, and when the construction of the roof is ready, the towel is taken down and the builders drink the contents of the bottle. This will bring luck, health and prosperity to the dwellers of the house.
The life of the inhabitants of Oas Land is something magical. These ancient customs and the profound faith in God link people to each other with an undestructible link. The children, the nature, the people who prepare for every celebration, all of these are permanent features of these places. They make Oas Land be a special and sacred place. The images that I have selected here can convince you of the beauty of these places and of the popular costumes. Oas people are strong and proud people, who preserved their strength by the willingness and determination of observing these beautiful traditions. The merry cemetery in Sapanta.