One of the joys of being a Peace Corps volunteer, here in Moldova and around the world, is that you never know what’s going to happen next. You’re surprised regularly by holidays and events that people forgot to tell you about.
The four people you see in the video above proved this again on Friday evening when they appeared unexpectedly at our home in Ialoveni. [The video is also on YouTube.]
As you can see, they chanted and sang after our host mother, Doamna Nina, invited them into the living room. (That’s Nina in the video between Champa and our grandmother, or Bunica.) It turns out our visitors were celebrating St. Vasile, or Basil the Great, a religious figure born in the year 329. He lived virtuously, established monasteries, served the poor and was canonized by the Orthodox Church shortly after his death.
On the evening of his special day, children across Moldova walk from house to house to sing carols and chants in his honor. The holiday coincides with the Orthodox Christian new year, which occurs shortly after our own new year back home.
Nina gave them all fruit, candy, money and loaves of the traditional round braided bread called colac. She was very generous, and we contributed something, too. Our visitors made out well.
As they left, the older woman you see in the photo crossed herself and then wished Champa and me good luck in the new year.
On Sunday, as Americans prepare to celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., people here will commemorate the birthday of Mihai Eminescu, a famous Romanian poet. This time I plan to be ready. Well, at least until Monday, when some Moldovans will celebrate still another holiday, this one involving howling wolves. I’m still unsure about that one.