Every Easter, the Romanians want to eat their traditional meals, whether it is a crisis or not. We are very religious people, that's why these meals are so important for us. The lamb represents Jesus and His sacrifice, the egg represents His tomb, the dough cake is His body and the red wine, which must accompany the roast lamb, is His blood.
Before Easter, we have a tradition of keeping a vegetarian diet, for cleaning our body. Also, our orthodox religion says it's best to be good through all this period, make good things and help poor people, stop cursing or thinking bad things, so we can clean our souls too . Whoever kept this diet and tried to be a good person all this time, goes to church on the Thursday before Easter and gets a holy blessing from the priest. The tradition says people have to pass through under a table before receiving the holy blessing. This signifies Jesus' passes with the cross on His back.
The colored eggs have their own story, which is also religious and comes from the Bible. Some of you may know that when Jesus was crucified, Mary came to see him with a bask et full of eggs. His blood dripped off on the eggs and colored them. That's why many of our eggs are especially colored in red.
In some parts of our country the eggs are painted. This is an art and it has been transmitted through generations, in the countryside. The empty eggs are dipped into hot wax. The artists have a special instrument with which they create different geometrical forms on the egg, then dip it into different colors .
I have a 3 painted eggs which I treasure so much. I'm using them every year for decorating our Easter table .
According to our tradition, the eggs must be colored on the Thursday before Easter. Friday, the day when Jesus was crucified and died, is a day for prayers and nothing else.
I'm coloring the eggs with the colors I get from the store, but some people are still using the old organic colors, which were used in the past, such as: onion covers for yellow; spinach for green; beet for red; black grapes for blue.
The cheese dough cake (similar to sweet bread) is also a traditional meal for Easter. Usually I make a cheese dough cake and 2 dough cakes stuffed with walnuts and cocoa or with jelly and raisins. It takes almost a day to make all those.
Modern Romanian women (such as me!) aren't baking dough cakes anymore and preffer to buy it from the store where they find all kinds of dough cakes, which were m ade not only in Romania, but also in other countries, especially Italy. The Italians have a similar recipe for the dough cake which is very much appreciated, even if it's a bit more expensive.
A few years ago I decided not to bake the dough cakes anymore because they need special heat conditions, especially while the dough is growing, until doubles its volume. Sometimes, even if it was enough heat for the dough to grow, the dough cake wouldn't grow enough while baking, or would get down after taken out of the oven. Believe me, that is a real tragedy around here!
This is also an art and not many can do it. The main thing one needs to know when making a dough cake is how to knead the dough. That's the real secret! However, even if I've learned all the secrets, I decided to give up on baking dough cakes, so I'm buying them from the sto re, like a modern lady that I am!
But I still have to make the real food, which are the lamb meals. In Romania we are usually buying a whole lamb, with head and all organs, so we can cook all the meals we need for Easter. The head, tail and the spine bones are used for making the sour soup. Those are enough for two pots of soup, so I am using only the spine bones for the Easter soup and the head and tail remain for another occasion. The soup is made with carrots, green and dry onions, rice and, of course, the spine bones. When all are cooked, I add “bors” which is a sour juice made of wheat covers and corn flour. This is what makes it a sour soup. Then I add a beaten egg and fresh chopped lovage leaves. It's served with sour cream which makes it more delicious!
While the soup is boiling, I'm prepairing the second meal, the “drob”- lamb haggis. For cooking the “drob” I'm using the lamb's organs: heart; liver; lungs and kidneys. They have to be well cleaned and boiled, then ground. I add to the mixture lots of green onion leaves, a small dry onion, parsley and dill fresh leaves, all chopped into small pieces, and 6-8 eggs.
The mixture is covered with the lamb's peritoneum and goes into the oven to bake. Boiled eggs can be put inside for a great decoration when sliced.
If the lamb is big, I can save some meat for making a few sorrel rolls, stuffed with lamb ground meat and served with sour cream on top. They are my favorite and are so delicious!
Finally, the last and also a very tasty meal is the roast lamb, made of the lamb's hips and legs. It goes into the oven and has to stay inside for over an hour or even more, if the lamb is bigger.
It's almost night when all the meals are done and we're resting a bit because we will go to the church at midnight to take the Holy Light. This is a special tradition here and it shows how important this holiday is for us, maybe the most important of all.
The Romanians are believers of life after death and many of our customs are showing that. This is why the Ressurection of Jesus Christ is a very important part of our religion and Easter is a more important celebration than Christmas, because of the Miracle of Ressurection.
We are leaving at half an hour before midnight and all the streets are full with people. Everyone is coming to the church and listens to the Easter sermon. Now they have modern tools at the church and all the sermon can be heard from outside. The churches are so full of Christians who came to hear the sermon and take the Holy Light ! Most of the people aren't coming to the church early enough to hear to the whole sermon, but they are willingly staying outside the church waiting for the priest to appear with the Holy Light.
Everyone has a candle in their hands and they are taking The Light from each other, while saying these words "Jesus Christ has Ressurected”, which is our religion's most important affirmation. The other one has to answer "Indeed He Ressurected”. Sounds like a password, and maybe it was used as such in the past, but nowadays, people are using it until the celebration of The Risen of Jesus, which is a month and a half from Easter. We are using these words instead of “Good day” for all this period, everytime we meet or even when speaking on the phone.
Same words are said when we are knocking the eggs, another Easter custom. The egg represents Jesus' tomb, like a cover which has a life inside and gets opened when the eggs are knocked to each other.
It's a belief that those who are knocking eggs on Easter will be together in the afterlife.
We are taking the Holy Light home and start eating the Easter goodies. Seeing all those people walking through the night, with the lights in their hands is very impressive, seems like a huge procession. But soon, everything is getting quiet again and all are back inside their homes.
HAPPY EASTER, EVERYONE !
This is where you can learn more about the painted eggs :
And here you can see more, while enjoying a beautiful Romanian folklore song :
This is a Romanian website where you can see more painted eggs.