Saint Ilie day traditions; Maiden Fair on Gaina mountain
The Romanian Orthodox Church celebrates prophet Ilie on July 20. One of the most important prophets in the Old Testament, Saint Ilie is celebrated as a miracle worker and the one that brings rain during a drought period.
His name comes from the Jewish Elijah, which translates as 'Whose God is Jah(ve)', and from the Greek and Latin Elias. In Arabic, the same name is Ilias.
The Romanian tradition labels Saint Ilie as the guardian of crops. It is the popular belief than when it rains with thunders and other spectacular meteorological phenomenons on Saint Ilie's day, the saint is crossing the skies with his chariot of fire, to protect the living.
According to statistics, there are 120,000 Romanians who celebrate their name day on July 20 (out of a total of around 22 million inhabitants).
It is on Saint Ilie that Romanian peasants are supposed to take the first apple and grape crops and when bee keepers harvest honey for the first time during the year. This day marks the middle of the summer for shepherds, who would come down from the sheep yards to villages for the first time during the year.
This is also the period of time when a traditional event takes place in Alba county, on Gaina mountain, in the Apuseni mountains, a tradition going back two centuries ago. It is called the 'Maidens Fair on the Gaina mountain' ('targul de Fete de pe Muntele Gaina'),which resides in a traditional matchmaking for young maiden looking for husbands. They would come with their parents and they would display their dower in hand-painted wooden hope chests. The fair also includes a sale of traditional products, like agricultural tools, as well as a banquet with Romanian folk music. The maiden Fair was registered by the Alba county as a trade mark. This year the fair took place last week-end in Avram Iancu locality, where it gathered 5,000 participants. In the recent years, the fair was modernized. This year, it even included a night dancing session with Djs. In previous years, it featured firework shows.
See below a short documentary about the fair (unfortunately in Romanian – the images are however telling the story themselves, along with the sound of traditional music from the Apuseni area).