The Orthodox Easter celebrations! You really can’t get away from it if you live here in Romania. I can’t comment on the whole of the country, although I imagine it to be the same, but Bucharest comes to a halt. It is very similar to Christmas and the month of August, in that, for a period of time, nothing functions.
Everyone takes time off work or if they are at work, productivity starts to slow down. And this isn’t just me saying this; my Romanian friends completely agree. If you want to run a business in Romania, pencil in to your calendar Christmas (and pretty much the whole of January), two weeks for Easter and August as periods when doing business will become rather difficult.
I live very close to, not one, but two churches and last night was a great spectacle. From my balcony I watched, as the clock came closer to midnight, a mass migration of people moving towards the church. Twenty minutes after 12, a sea of red lights seemed to floating around the neighborhood, like tiny ants with candles on their backs. What a sight!
All these people holding their candles very carefully as to make sure that the fire won’t extinguish. And the church bells! They were still ringing at 3am! And as I write this, they are still going. I don’t envy that bell ringer; he must have arms that rival Arnold Schwarzenegger’s! You’ll have Shaolin monks soon.
Anyway, it got me thinking about my own religious background, education and beliefs.
The overriding sense that I experienced was of respect. The fact that the people of Romania still hold, very dearly, religion and nothing will ever change that, regardless of how much the Western world tries to impart its stamp on Romania’s DNA. I appreciated it so highly because, back in the UK, I feel that we have lost that aspect of society. Not that I am particularly religious myself but I think that everyone should believe in something, even if it’s just themselves.
My memories of Easter growing up was of Easter egg hunts at the local fire station. The fire fighters would place eggs all over their station and then invite all the children within the local community to come down and make some special finds. Those were the days. Even my grandmother and grandfather would hide eggs in their garden and take great joy in telling me exactly how many eggs were hidden; just to watch my frustration when I couldn’t find those last two pesky eggs!
My religious education was primarily garnered at school. On Good Friday, we would be ushered to the Church down the road, sit in on a sermon and line up to be given the “Blood and Body of Christ”; in reality, a piece of a stale cracker and some fruit juice. But the sentiment was there; it had to be, I was in the house of God. My family are Christian and believe in God. However, we never went to church on a Sunday, not that I can remember anyway and we seemed to readily embrace the capitalist model of buying lots of eggs at this time of year. The simple fact for this happening was purely because everyone else we knew was doing the same. In English society, for the most part, religion and traditions have taken a back seat to more money orientated practices. Which is a shame. Truly.
I have said this for a long time about Romania. You may have a bad image in the foreign media but I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Don’t believe that everything the West has accomplished is good. Strive to forge your own path to a true democratic society. Romania has so many unique quirks that really make your country great!
I guess all that is left for me to say is Hristos A Inviat and Paste Fericit! Have an absolutely amazing Easter everybody, enjoy the time with your families and, if you’re in Bucharest, soak up this sunshine! It’s bloody fantastic!
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By Ashley Parry, guest writer
(in picture: Orthodox Romanians taking the holy lEaster ight from the priest, at the Patriarchy in Bucharest; photo source: Romanian Patriarchy).