Spring customs


The shouting over the village

Category: customs with changing date (related to Easter)
Date of event: at the Fall of the Easter Fasting
Participants: the whole community

"The Shrove Tuesday" is a complex ceremony for the renewal of time, taking place, related to the calculation of Easter, in February - March. It preserves ritual acts specific to an ancient celebration of the beginning of the agricultural year, on the spring equinox. After the advent of Christianity and the calculation of Easter in relation to the vernal equinox and the lunar phase, important celebrations and traditions from the pre-Christian period were pushed as far as possible from the central holiday of the festive Christian calendar, the Easter: to the winter solstice, on the Shrove Tuesday, and to the summer solstice, at Pentecost.

For this reason, certain customs specific to the vernal equinox as the lighting of the ritual fires and the rolling of the waggon wheels down the hill after being coated with straws and set on fire, came to be, in the early years, performed in the middle of winter, at Lent. The Sunday before the Easter Shrove Tuesday is preceded by one of the most important holiday dedicated to the dead and ancestors, called the Ancestors of the or, after the customary food which is offered on this day, the pork jelly, the Pork Jelly Ancestors.

The young men of the community who reached the age of marriage gather in the highest point of the village, on any hill or mound, and, around a big fire made with twigs and brushwood, they perform the "shouting over the village" or the "shouting on the coast".

Divided into two parts, they shout out the names of the marriageable girls or girls they would like to ask for marriage.

The shoutings sometimes have satirical shades targeting the ugly girls, the lazy women, the ”Don Juans" or the drunkards of the village.

In southern villages the feast is also called «Oh, Marie" and fires are called "bobotaie" in Călărași, "bâlbătaie" in Gighera and "bolbotaie" in Ostroveni.

In the plain areas, the fires are made at "crossroads", at the intersection of the village streets.

In the North of the county, the fires are lit in the highest places: mounds, hills.

At the beginning of the Lent several fires were lit at the crossroads, using stalks and straws. They would be cheered with jokes and shouts (callings of the girls). Today, less often. The children and the young men used to fire the piles of straws brought on the top of the hill and used to let go down the hill the wheels of the ploughs covered in burning straws. They also used to shout at each other. The They used to smoke the legs of the cattle and people in order to flee snakes or other dangerous animals.

Today this custom is only met in several localities in Dolj: Brabova, Bulzeşti, Bucovăţ, Carpen, Călărași, Cernătești, Cleanov, Gighera, Ostroveni, Pieleşti, Teslui etc.

Obs. For further documentation, see Archive of CJCPCT Dolj (http://www.traditiidoljene.ro/)

The week of St. Theodor or The horses of St. Theodor – (Sântoader)

Category: customs with changing date (in relation to the Easter Shrove Tuesday)
Date of event: on the Saturday of St. Theodor (first Saturday after Shrove Tuesday)
Participants: the entire community

Placed under the equestrian symbol of the "Horses of St. Theodor" this week, filled with meanings, popular beliefs and ritual acts is very respected and feared by the peasants in Dolj county.

The first day is "The Monday of the Crows". The left-overs from the Shrove Tuesday - when Christians are allowed to eat cheese, consisting of bread gobbets and eggshells, are thrown to the crows in the belief that they will not go for the seeds in the furrow.

It is followed by the "Tuesday of the Vessels" when women wash the dishes with soap to remove the fat food and boil the wooden spoons.

On the "Wednesday of the Worms" the white linen in the house is sunk in boiled water, in the belief that the worms will be prevented from destroying the crops.

Although working is forbidden the entire week, the most dreaded day is the Twisted Thursday. Those who violate the tradition can be "taken from St. Theodor" and become mouth-crooked. It is also called the "Thursday of the Mares".

On the "Blind Friday" the house is swept and the trash is taken to the edge of the yard, with the eyes closed, so that the birds in the sky cannot see the crops and ruin them. Also, on this day people go searching the forest for elecampane (also called horse-heal or elfdock) and remove them from their roots.

Saturday is the "Saturday of St. Theodor" or the "Saturday of the dead" when people recall their ancestors, sharing coliva and fasting alms.

In the popular belief, St. Theodor is a young man who has nine horses, chasing the sun to keep it in the sky. On the day of the saint, the horses are adorned with herbs and red tassels and they are taken for a walk or a gallop through the village ("the giddyup of the horses").
People also wash their hair with elecampane infusion. The girls look in the mirror and say: "Theodor, Saint Theodor, may my hair tails grow like the crest of the horses."

The same infusion is put in the water of the cattle and poultry to be healthy. The men cut their hair shorter and also cut shorter the tails of the horses.

On the night of "St. Theodor" no one must knead bread, spin a thread or be part of a social meeting in the village, and no one must be out on the road as they shall be chased by the Saint’s horses.

If on the " Twisted Thursday " anyone goes and washes, at night the horses of Sântoader come and go clumping around the house. And one dreams of them. (Dragoi Silina, 70 years old, Predești commune - Dolj, March 1999).

In the Desa commune, on the Saturday of Sântoader people have been organizing for years an equestrian competition involving the young men and their horses, both from Desa and the neighbouring communes: Poiana Mare and Ciupercenii Noi. The local authorities have encouraged this event and instituted a way of rewarding the horses and their riders, which makes the race even more attractive and the locals and curious.

Obs. For further documentation, see Archive of CJCPCT Dolj (http://www.traditiidoljene.ro/)

The church service for the community (Sărindar)

Category: customs with fixed date
Date of the event: in 3 stages – Performing the Sărindar on the Saturdays of the Lent; the Release on the water on the first Saturday before St. Mary; the Breaking of the Sărindar in one of Thursdays or Saturdays of the months of October to November (after vintage and making the wine)
Participants: women from Desa, Dolj county

The Sărindar for the community is, in fact, "a dearly almsgiving" by the young families for the welfare of their living family, and this custom can only be found in the Desa commune from the Danube valley.

The custom takes place in three stages throughout the year:
in the six Saturdays of the Lent, an old village woman, necessarily widow ("forgiven"), chosen by the other women, take to church the lists of names and the alms of those who chose her and who brought her wheat flour, sugar, oil, money and all the other things that are necessary for the alms;
on the first Saturday before St. Mary (September 8) takes place the "release on the water". About a week before that, the old widow who took the alms to church names a girl whou has to carry 44 buckets of water counting them on a "raboș" (a twig from a tree on which she encrusts the number of buckets of water carried by her).

At the release of the water a boy is also called to witness the girl who carries the water (apart from the fiddlers, he is the only man allowed to the procession). For this moment, the women celebrating the Sărindar adorn a tree (a branch of an apple tree, plum tree etc.) with handkerchiefs, towels, cloth, scarves, mirrors, whatever each of them wants to buy and exchange with the others and with the tree decorated and everything prepared on this occasion: bread, steaks, cakes, they all go to a well they have selected in advance.

Here, each next to their "tree" lays the alms on a clean towel; they thurify and send down on the spout of the well a wooden tray with lighted candles.

After that, they go and eat what they have prepared, and then go dancing; the fiddlers come either before or together with the women. After they carry along their "trees" in the dance, they begin to share with each other what they put in their trees. In the evening they all to go to their homes.

after vintage and making the wine (October-November), the families on a "line" (village street) who participated in the release on water, decide on a day when they make the service for the alms (Sărindar), a Thursday or a Saturday, when they can find fiddlers available.

Then they prepare a large round bread made of 20 tommies, the alms bowls, the cakes, other dishes; on Thursday or Saturday they go out on the "line" with the tables loaded and the priest of the village comes and begins the service for the living and, at the end, they feast and dance.

The second day people organise the "lunch" of the Sărindar; if it is Friday, they prepare fasting food, if it is Sunday, they prepare fat food.

This Sărindar is performed by every family for seven years in a row; after that, those who want can continue performing it.
It seems that, for some time, because of financial reasons, this custom ceased to be practiced...

Obs. For further documentation, see Archive of CJCPCT Dolj (http://www.traditiidoljene.ro/)

The adornment (The Proor)

Category: habits with fixed date
Date of event: April 23 (St. George)
Participants: the inhabitants of the communities

The Proor is a folk festival with fixed date, held each year on 23 April (St. George), the day that celebrates Holy Great Martyr George the Triumphant.

On Proor people decorate the pillars of the gates, the eaves of houses, the shelters for cattle with green branches taken from the forest, or branches of linden, locust tree, lilac.

This habit is nurtured by the belief that the green branch protects people, livestock and crops from the evil forces that are become very active on St. George`s, when the New Pastoral Year also begins.

In some villages of Dolj, in Tuglui and Urzicuța, or in the Danube Valley (in Bistreț), the young men go by waggons in the woods, in the dawn of St. George`s, to collect green branches of willow, osier or poplar, which they sanctify in the church and give to the villagers to "proorate" their gates, houses and even cattle.

Those who bear the name of St. George are being made special wishes and the fiddlers accompanying the Proor procession play for them on their way through the village.

Obs. For further documentation, see Archive of CJCPCT Dolj (http://www.traditiidoljene.ro/)

The Offering of the Boyash (or Rudari – gipsy metal and wood workers)

Category: custom with fixed date
Date of event: April 23 (St. George) and the Ascension (Jesus Christ's Ascension) 40 days after Easter.
Participants: members of the Boyash ethnic community (Rudari)

This is the most important ritual holiday of the Boyash ethnic communities in Dolj, like Bechet, Bistreţ, Desa, Piscu Vechi, Sadova.
The participants are all the members of the family who decided to perform the ritual, with the aim of healing any of its members or for the health of all.

Generally, the Boyash ethnic community celebrates the Offering on St. George's and on the Ascension.

The sacrifice of the paschal lamb was taken from the Christian tradition.

The celebration takes place in a clean place: usually in the forest or in their own households after they have been cleaned beforehand.

They sacrifice a lamb, necessarily white, bought without haggling, obeying a series of strict standards of spiritual and bodily cleanliness.

The lamb is roasted by old nomadic techniques or boiled in a tin kettle, as the leader of the ritual claims to have dreamt it should be done.

A sort of preacher of the Boyash, that they also call ”the priest”, says a prayer three times and then the whole family sits around the table.

Nothing is kept from the leftover food, everything is buried.

There is strong faith in the healing power of the Offering ceremony in cases of epilepsy, impotence, anaemia, where "doctors failed to find a cure”.

Following the study of this custom, an ethnological film was made, named "The Offering of the Boyash".

Obs. For further documentation, see Archive of CJCPCT Dolj (http://www.traditiidoljene.ro/)

The communion of the girls (linked to the Eucharist Christian rituals)

Category: customs with changing date (in relation to Easter)
Date of event: on the Palm Sunday
Participants: groups of girls from Urzicuța commune in Dolj

It is a unique custom linked to Easter, practiced only in Urzicuța commune (in Dolj county) on Palm Sunday.
Groups of virgins (5-14 years) go in the morning of the Palm Sunday to a river "to commune". The day before (on Saturday) each girl prepares a ring bread braid which she takes the next day to the mentioned river. Here, the girls tear a piece of their bread and bind it with a small string of different colours, so that each can recognize their piece. All these pieces are placed on a plank which is then sunk flatways the river course by an old woman in the village. The pieces of bread float on the water surface and after a distance of 4-5 metres downstream they determine the winner. The girl whose piece arrives first is appointed "godmother". Now all the girls go the ”godmother's” home to share and eat the remaining bread, as ”papara” – the bread is scrambled and mixed with sugar water. After eating ”papara”, all girls go to their homes and up to Easter they are not allowed to talk to each other or to play together (this being the Holy Week of Jesus Christ).
On Easter Sunday the girls come and bring gifts to the ”godmother” they selected the week before: bread, meat, eggs, tomatoes, lemonade, cookies and have a little party together.
This is another local manner to express the respect they pay to Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind.
Obs. For further documentation, see Archive of CJCPCT Dolj (http://www.traditiidoljene.ro/)

The water spilling ritual

Category: customs with changing date (in relation to Easter)
Date of event: on the Thursday of the Holy Week
Participants: the entire community

The ritual is held in remembrance of the dead and is practiced mainly in the South of Dolj county – it was documented in the Bechet town.
The women in Bechet prepare in advance the place where the water will be spilled, on the banks of river Jieț - a clean place, which is marked with green willow twigs bent as arcades and planted in the ground.
In the morning of the Holy Thursday, the women, each accompanied by a girl aged 10-14, go to the bank of the river to perform the water spilling ritual for both the dead and the living.
Each dead is mentioned by his/her name and receives a mug of water which is thrown from the Jieţ river under the arches of willow.
On the surface of the water, small vessels with lit candles are launched in the belief that they make contact with the world beyond, with those in the family who have passed away; other candles are lit on the sand near the water, having the same role as the fires lit on tombs: to warm the dead, to pave the way for their returning to earth on the days of Easter.
Afterwards, the women go to the cemetery with a bucket of water taken from Jieţ, where they light candles, spill the water around the graves and share fasting alms for each dead.
Obs. For further documentation, see Archive of CJCPCT Dolj (http://www.traditiidoljene.ro/)

The Alms Circle Dance (Hora)

Category: habits with changing date
Date of the event: the day after Easter
Participants: the whole community
The custom is linked to Easter and is a ritual dance dedicated to the cult of the dead.
It is practiced throughout Oltenia. It appears, however, that the in poorer villages or in the cities, this dance is no longer performed.
Generally, the alms dance takes place on the first or second day of Easter in Bechet, Călărași (Săpata), Desa, Galiciuica, Gângiova, Gighera, Ostroveni, Mârșani, Orodelu, but in some places it can be held on the third day of Easter (like in Afumați, Bulzeşti, Bârca) or one week after Easter (like in Pietroia, Brabova).
Those who had in their family young people who died or relatives who dies without candle, hire fiddlers and, on the days and locations previously announced they invite the villagers to take part in this ritual dance where they share simits, alms, red eggs, cups of wine.
In Gighera villagers are given bunches of flowers and white cocks for the soul of those who died without a candle, for three years in a row.
For those who died young, in addition to the dance, the villagers decorate a green fir with apples, sweets, handkerchiefs. This particular custom also takes place in Călăraşi, where the ritual is repeated for three years in a row.
In Bârca, the alms dance takes place on the third day of Easter, for seven years after the family member has died.
Obs. For further documentation, see Archive of CJCPCT Dolj (http://www.traditiidoljene.ro/)

Ropotinul țesturilor

Category: custom with changing date (related to Easter)
Date of event: on the third Tuesday from Easter
Participants: the women in the community
In the past, this was a traditional celebration held on the third Tuesday after Easter. It was attended only by women who used to make ”țests” on this day (”țest” is an ancient pottery item made from clay in the shape of a bell, with which women used to cover the bread baking on the ancient stoves – still used today in the countryside)
Today, only sporadically țests are being manufactured, when needed, in some of the villages in the valley of the Danube.
In Boureni, Dolj, "the stamping" of the țests takes place after the harvest of the wheat, when the women gather the straw chaff which, together with tow, dried dung and earth taken from a certain place, is the prime material for making of the țests.
The women gather on a large street of the village, broom it, spread fine sand and put in its midst the earth brought and soak it with water, mix it with chaff, dung and tow and stamp on it nine times. Meanwhile, they tell jokes, anecdotes and mud their faces (”for the țests not to crack”).
Once the composition was well kneaded, they separate it in little mounds, beat well with a wooden board, covered it with ash and with the clay for țests. They beat by hand and shape it and, in the end, they decorate it with "snakes" and flowers. They pierce it with a dried sunflower stem and let it dry under the scorching sun of the plain until the next day.
Until the țest is dried, the women eat a "ghivici" - hotchpotch, made in the old țest and prepared from all the existing vegetables which can be found in abundance during the summer. No shortage of wine and țuica then. Men are not allowed to approach that place, as women consider themselves superior on this day.
Because the modern technology of baking the bread led to the demise of this ancient custom, we wanted to immortalize it in a artistic documentary film, which was made between 22 to 25 June 1999 in the village Boureni, presenting the custom as it used to be in the former times.
Obs. For further documentation, see Archive of CJCPCT Dolj (http://www.traditiidoljene.ro/)

The Holy Thursday Fires

Category: custom with changing date (related to Easter)
Date of event: on the Thursday of the Holy Week
Participants: the women in the community

Custom with changing date celebrated on the Thursday of the Holy Week, it is known in the communities as the Holy Thursday Fires (Joimari). It is believed that on the night of the Holy Thursday the graves, the skies and the doors of heaven and hell open, and souls of the dead return to earth where they remain among the living until Pentecost.
For the souls coming from another realm, while it is still cold on Earth, people light symbolic fires in the cemeteries to keep them warm.
Unlike the purifying fire on the Shrove (made of brushwood and waste), the Holy Thursday fire is made with dried danewort and clean wood, torn by hand (untouched by iron).
The custom has existed in all Romanian provinces, being very well represented in the area of the Serbian and Bulgarian Timok.
In a particular way, the habit is still kept in Argetoaia commune, in the Salcia village, and also in the Melineşti commune – the Ohaba village where, in the evening, the women start preparing the firewood, the round bread and the pipkin with incense and, until dawn, they light fires in their yards. Then they go to the cemetery where they light a fire at the grave. On this occasion, the missing is also mourned.
In Ostroveni villagers share round bread and alms for the remembrance of the dead, and in the evening, on the river bank, they dig little holes in the ground and fill them with water for the dead. They also light candles in vessels and let them float down the river.
In Orodel people smoke the house with lit cloth to scare away the evil spirits of the Holy Thursday and make fires in the four corners of the yard.
In Boureni, the fire is made from hazel wood, cornelian cherry or maple and it is believed that on the night of the Holy Thursday, the Holy Ladies appear, who once used to walk the earth helping the ones in need.
On the evening of the Holy Thursday, the children go in the village to gather eggs to paint red. They ring the bells and say, "Give me two of your eggs, and you'll have nine left".
It is also during this night people believe that Joimăriţa will come - an old ugly grinning lady who punishes the naughty children and the lazy women.
Until recently, in the villages of Dolj, on the evening of the Holy Thursday the young people up to 18 years called "Câții-Mâții" (after the verses they used to recite), went in groups from gate to gate with a bucket embers and a bell, to gather eggs that would be painted on the Good Friday.
On that same day of the Holy Thursday, in Bechet the villagers keep another particular custom: "the Spilling of the Water", this one too in the remembrance of the dead.

Obs. For further documentation, see Archive of CJCPCT Dolj (http://www.traditiidoljene.ro/)

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