While 86.5 percent of Romania’s population is Orthodox and Halloween is not a holiday in the calendar, younger generations are enjoying it and businesses try to increase their sales on its back.
Western Romania: A five year old girl is so excited to get a pumpkin costume for the “hallowing” (as she says) that she puts it on before she leaves the supermarket, despite protests from her grandmother.
The pair are shopping in the local store of a big German discount supermarket chain in the town of Pecica in Arad County.
Situated just 30 kilometers from the Romanian-Hungarian borderline, a third of the nearly 12,000 inhabitants of the town are Roman Catholics who are celebrating All Hallows’ Eve on October 31st by visiting their local confessional cemetery, lighting candles and praying in the memory of loved ones who passed away.
But the Romanian Orthodox Church, like the other Eastern Christian churches, doesn’t have this holiday.
Romanians celebrate their beloved dead on Memorial Easter, a week after Easter Sunday, a holiday with pagan roots just like Halloween.
On that day, after the service, the entire family goes to the cemetery to share food specialties, including with the poor, as they provide for their late family members.
This is why Halloween is considered by many Romanians, mainly by the elderly, an artificial holiday, imported by merchants to make money.
Although, in some north-western and western regions of the country with significant Roman Catholic communities, Romanians have started to participate more and more in All Hallows’ Eve, putting ferns and autumn flowers, mainly chrysanthemums and dahlia, on the graves and lighting candles.
Younger generations have found October 31st a good opportunity to entertain themselves as every year more clubs are holding Halloween parties in the bigger cities of Romania.
Whether it's liked or not, Halloween and Romania do have a bond thanks to Bram Stoker’s famous novel Dracula and there is a community which is certain enjoying this:
Bran, a little commune situated at the meeting point of the historical provinces of Transylvania and Muntenia, 188 kilometers to the capital city Bucharest.
With a population of only 5,500, Bran is a well-known tourist resort which attracted last year 546,000 visitors, 41.7 percent of them from abroad, thanks to the Bran Castle built in 1388.
Number nine in a Top 10 spookiest destinations list compiled last year by an online travel adviser, the castle prepared for Saturday, November 2, night tours with “black vodka and red vine”, Dracula and wicked fairies, the screening of the movie Nosferatu and a Halloween After Party.
As a smart combination of legends and science, the “Grigore Antipa” National Museum of Natural History will use its permanent exposition of the world’s fauna on October 31st to present scientific facts about the species associated with superstitions and evil.
Former Tourism Minister Dan Matei Agathon in a radio interview said “is a big mistake not taking advantage of interconnection (between myth of Dracula and Halloween), it might be beneficial”.
Meanwhile, supermarkets countrywide are selling spooky decorations, lots of holiday-themed candies and foods and even costumes weeks ahead of Halloween, attracting Romanian children and creating a new generation which celebrates October 31st as their own tradition.
By Paul Sinka, guest writer
(photos by Paul Sinka)