Easter Celebration in Bukovina

From an Easter 2020 Email by Alfred Wanza
Bukovina Friends
Posted April 11, 2020

Easter is the largest religious festival in Bukovina. Especially among the Romanians. According to the Julian calendar, Easter is the most important day for Orthodox Christians. A strict Lent begins seven weeks before Easter. At the beginning of Lent, the Orthodox Christians wash their dishes and no longer touch them. It is only in the third week of Lent that the best eggs are selected for painting on Good Friday. Artistically painted eggs are created. An ancient tradition in Bukovina. Romanian villagers go to church every Saturday and Sunday. Orthodox believers wear black clothes during Easter week. The church altar is draped in black cloth and the church tower flies black flags. Water is the only drink in the great Easter week. This is how the believers remember Jesus’ suffering. The Good Friday painted eggs are not Easter eggs, but red eggs that are supposed to symbolize the blood of Jesus. With the finest pastries and good food in the baskets, the finely dressed believers, especially Romanians, go to church on Saturday at midnight for Easter Services. Their baskets are blessed during the Easter Mass. After returning  home, the people go to the animals first, then into the yard, and only afterward do they go into the house – everywhere one says three times “Christ has risen” and receives the same in response. The next morning, they go to the relatives, giving and receiving the same greeting. Now everything is blessed and the basket can be unpacked. The red eggs and money are removed from the basket and placed in water. Faces are washed with the blessed water. It is said that it makes one strong and healthy. Only on Easter Sunday is the food from the basket eaten. On Easter Monday, the families go back to church and then to the cemetery. There, something from the baskets is placed on the graves of the relatives, so that the dead can take part in the festival. Then relatives and acquaintances are visited. Tuesday after Easter the men pour water on the women. The women give the men a painted egg. The other ethnic groups in Bukovina practiced similar rituals as the Orthodoxy Christians. This symbolism shows how important Easter is in Bukovina.

The Easter holidays, which in orthodox mythology are a symbol of sadness, hope, awakening and new life, are also exemplary for nature in the Carpathians at this time. The snow, the white dress that covered the landscape, has melted. The traces of winter leave behind brown meadows, bare forests and swampy paths. Nature is tentatively trying to regain strength. Only the warming sun gives an idea of ​​the approaching spring and the strength of summer. New life awakens.