Tag Archives: Easter

Easter in the Cemetery

Our neighbors ate, drank and shared memories a few days ago in a place that may surprise you: the local cemetery.

They were there for Paştele Blajinilor, or Memorial Easter, a week after Orthodox Easter. Like families across Moldova, they gathered at the graves of their loved ones, placing flowers and food besides the tombstones, lighting candles and enjoying a meal together.

The photo on the left shows what the cemetery at the Biserica Acoperământul Maicii Domnului in Ialoveni usually looks like. On the right is the same cemetery on Monday, when Champa and I visited.

We saw dozens of families spreading containers of food and bottles of soda, wine and cognac on tables or cloths near the graves. They had traditional local foods along with colored eggs and special bread. A priest circulated to say prayers. Families visited with their friends and neighbors, sharing food and wine as they remembered grandparents, parents, spouses and others. IMG_4384They dribbled wine on the graves and left behind food and candles. The mood was friendly but subdued and respectful.

Our host family was out of town visiting the village home of our host mother. Yet we felt welcome among everyone we saw. The woman in the middle of the photo with Champa knows us. She and her daughters stopped us as we were wandering around and insisted we share some food and wine with them. They also gave us a small gift bag with treats inside. Many families also use this occasion to donate food and small gifts to the poor.

IMG_4385Paştele Blajinilor, which traces it origins back to pre-Christian times, is celebrated widely in Moldova and parts of neighboring Romania. It reminded me of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, although the religious significance is quite different since it coincides with Easter instead of Halloween.

The church you see here is on a hill on the other side of Ialoveni from where we live. As usual in Moldova, we traveled there on foot, walking about 9 km. roundtrip on roads still slick and muddy from a recent spring snowstorm. The trip was worth every step. We were moved by what we saw and felt privileged to take part in such a memorable event, a picnic in a cemetery to feed your soul.

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Painting Eggs

Are you getting ready to paint Easter eggs?

If you need some inspiration, the most beautiful Easter eggs in the world are surely here in Moldova and its neighboring countries. See for yourself in this photo I snapped last weekend at the travel fair in Chișinău.

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Viorica Flocea painted these eggs. That’s her with Champa and our friend Denise. You can watch her technique in the video below.

Painting eggs for Easter is a centuries-old tradition in this part of the world. The practice nearly disappeared in Moldova during the decades of Soviet rule when religion was suppressed. Now it has been revived and many Moldovan families paint eggs with their children during the Easter season.

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You begin by draining the egg’s contents through a small hole. Then you mark the egg with hot wax lines to form ornamental areas. After the wax turns cold, you place the egg in colored water and then dry it. Next comes the fun part,: painting the egg with different colors, progressing from lighter to darker colors. Finally you dry the egg and strip off the wax lines.
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Traditional designs may symbolize the sun, a leaf, wheat or the cross. Certain lines represent life or death, while others portray water or purification. Several websites like this one have more information.
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People here traditionally paint Easter eggs on the Thursday and Saturday before the holiday. However, artists such as Viorica paint eggs throughout the year and at exhibitions like the one we attended.

After we bought several of her eggs to bring home as gifts, she encouraged Champa and Denise to give it a try by each drawing their name and the date on an egg.

You can learn from Viorica, too, at her family’s lodge in Fundu Moldovei, Romania. If you’re here in Moldova, the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History organizes several exhibitions and workshops each year where craftswomen demonstrate the craft.

You also can learn egg painting at the Orhei Vechi archeological complex or Lalova village in Rezina district. Tatrabis offers an all-day excursion in Moldova that combines a class on egg painting with homemade wine tastings where you can wash away your disappointment at not being as skilled as Viorica.

Perhaps I should say you’re not as skilled yet. You still have some time before Sunday to become a master egg artisan yourself.