It’s Easter this side of the Schism

Everything is cancelled this week.  School, programs, events, regular meetings.  Talk to friends, “Can you get together?”  Sorry, we’re busy getting ready for Easter.  What could you possibly be doing for an entire week to prepare for Easter?  By default, I viewed their Easter preparations through my cultural lens.  This celebration was far in the back of my mind, particularly since we had already celebrated this historical, victorious event over a month ago, when the western side of the Great Schism celebrates.  I quickly realized that Easter is the most important traditional holiday in Romania.  It eclipses Christmas, a thought inconceivable to the West.  But, much like the West’s commercialized, syncretic, merely traditional practice of Christmas, the Romanian version of Easter has incorporated ritual and tradition far removed from the truth that Jesus, God in flesh, rose from the dead to provide the ransom for all.

Our neighbors, a multi-generational family, took the obligatory walk to the graveyard this week.  Granny held granddaughter in one hand, a bucket in the other.  Grandpa carried a hoe.  The mom and other youngsters hauled various other gardening tools.  This week, everyone goes to clean around the gravestones of relatives, one of the important traditional elements of the week.  Easter is so important, tradition holds even the dead return to observe it with their families.  On Great Thursday, the day before Great Friday,

According to the Romanian tradition, skies, graves, doors of heaven and hell open this day. The dead return to pass the Easter near the loved ones. They will remain at their old houses until the Saturday before the Rusalii, when pies and bowls are doled for their souls. It is believed that the spirits sit on the roofs or in the yards. As it is still quite cold, fires must be lighted in the morning and in the evening, so that the dead could have light and heat.

In the Romanian Orthodox church, some of the traditional practices might be incorporated into the Easter season or simply repurposed with a religious twist.  Either way, the hustle and bustle of activity, including the obligatory cleaning of the house and garden, is obvious throughout town. 

My first Easter this year, celebrated with the western calendar, came and went with a blur.  This weekend we celebrate second Easter along with the rest of the country, region, and indeed millions across the globe whose orthodoxy is informed from the eastern side of the Schism.  Even Protestant churches in Romania observe Easter this weekend, along with their fellow countrymen.

I’m glad for this second reminder, this entire week of remembering and, on Sunday, celebrating.  This Sunday we’ll be playing Annie Herrings’s Easter Song as sung by Glad at high volume, windows down, on the way to church.  But we don’t need the excuse of Second Easter to do that.  Every day is a good day to worship and celebrate the Risen King.

2 responses to “It’s Easter this side of the Schism”

  1. It’s been such a joy to celebrate their special traditions. We had a wonderful traditional Easter meal with a neighboring family and cracked eggs saying ‘He has Risen,’ ‘He is Risen Indeed’ a phrase we use in the church in the U.S. but it’s not a common greeting in public at Easter. Here, the neighbor walking down the street might use it to greet someone in passing during the Easter Season.

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