Romanian Easter

From Cluj, today:  This is my first Easter in Romania and although I’m not a regular church-goer, I’m looking forward to the Orthodox service at midnight.  My friend Ioana tells me that the Easters of long ago were much more exciting.  She grew up in Deva during the 1940s and her family had a large house and garden, long since obliterated by Communist housing blocks.  If 12pm sounds late, Ioana remembers going to church at 4am.  As the first glimmer of dawn lit the sky, she, her family and the rest of the congregation would follow the parish priest in procession three times around the church.  Everyone carried a candle.  Up to this point the church was closed and to gain entry, the priest beat on the doors three times. Someone inside asked ‘Who is there?’  The answer was ‘Imperatul Maririi’ which translates roughly as ‘The Emperor of the Highest’, and the people entered. Ioana says it was too hard for her to stand throughout the entire service and the family didn’t stay long.  When they got home, a feast was waiting for them, marking the end of the traditional 40 day fast.  As the night evaporated into morning Ioana and her sister searched the garden for painted eggs and other presents. Ioana says one of her most poignant memories of those early Easters is of listening the privighetori, which is what Romanians call nightingales.

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