Easter in Romania, Scents, Sights, Sounds #Im4Ro

For a child growing up in Romania, Easter time is a miraculous tradition abundant in scents, sights and sounds. For an adult, it embodies a history of personal faith and a culinary feast – but above all Easter means national and personal culture because ‘this is how we remember and celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, like our parents before us, and their parents too.’

My memories of Easter in Romania consist of scents, sights, sounds, and… excitement.

Orthodox Easter pasca, painted eggs, candle
Orthodox Easter, sweet pasca, painted eggs, a lit candle

Scents: Easter Food Traditions in Romania

Whenever I think of Easter my olfactive memory unravels scents of earthly lamb baked in the oven with lemony dill and peppery parsley called drobdrob with herbs and served with bold, crunchy spring onions on the side… a meal crowned by mouthwatering sweet loafs and boiled eggs, lush in their Easter colorful coating.

Drob at Easter, Paste, traditional food in Romania
Earthly lamb, minced, and baked with fragrant herbs and hard boiled eggs at Easter time in Romania.

The food for Easter was prepared in advance and during lent (although as a child I never abstained myself from eating meat-products). My grandmother, who was originally from Moldova, would bake Easter pasca and cozonac. Mom, Ardeleanca as she is, would cook (and she still does) mouth-watering, tender lamb dishes – especially the drob.

The cozonac, no matter how sweet it smelled, how fluffy and tall it rose, was to be observed, but not eaten during lent… One could look, enjoy its promising scent of nuts, vanilla, and Turkish delight, but one had to wait for Easter night. It was tradition.

cozonac traditional Easter, Christmas desert from Romania
Cozonac, a sweet tradition at Easter or Christmas time, a desert from Romania… or a meal on its own 🙂

Easter Pasca

This year we made Pasca too. Pasca is a celebratory Romanian Easter bread that brings together the memory of Jesus sharing bread with his disciples, and the millennial tradition of shepherding. It is the sweet taste of the Resurrection Morning, marked with the Holy Cross .

On a bed of cozonac, in a round embrace of sweet dough, marked with a cross, lies the sweet mixture of sweet cheese, eggs, sugar, vanilla essence, lemon zest and raisins.

Easter food Pasca (middle) and cozonac
“Keep us in thy goodness, that we may be filled with thy riches, which thou hast given us.”

A short history of Pasca at Easter time

Lamb and bread have beautiful traditions for Jews and Christians at Easter time.

For Jews, the lamb is a reminder of the sacrifice of the paschal lamb on the eve of Exodus from slavery in Egypt, when its blood was smeared on door frames so the Angel of Death will pass over them, Passover, and not kill the first born child. And unleavened bread is eaten too, as when the Israelites were allowed to leave, they could not let their bread rise and so they brought matzo. The lamb is eaten with bitter herbs, maror, that symbolizes the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.

During the Last Supper, Jesus and his apostles ate lamb and matzo (azymes).

For Christians, lamb is a symbol of Christ, His body and sacrifice, while the bread and red whine symbolize, through the Holy Spirit, the body and the blood of Jesus Christ – through which we reconnect with God.

Yet historically speaking Pasca is connected with Easter only through the unleavened bread eaten alongside lamb at Easter. In Christian tradition this passing has a different meaning, that of Jesus’ passing from death to life, from earth towards Heaven, in the Night of Resurrection, Easter Night. This joy has been translated into Easter traditional food, Pasca.

Shepherding has a millennial tradition on this old land known today as Romania. Between the Tatra Mountain in the west and the Caucasus in the East, from the northern Carpathians to the mountains of Greece, thus stretched the playground of Vlach shepherds, over 1000 years ago. The shephetds created a solid community with social connections and a cultural unity.

It would have been them who, mixing sheep cheese with honey, and eggs, would have topped the wheat bread and baked the first Pasca, with the generosity of a king even on the sheepfold atop the mountain – a prayer and a blessing for abundance of cheese and eggs, on Easter Sunday.

Easter pasca and a red egg to celebrate Resurrection of Jesus
Easter pasca and a red egg to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus – we topped the pasca with pomegranate seeds (rodie in Romanian)

As we were new to pasca and I wasn’t sure about proportions especially where the cheese filling was involved, we used the pasca recipe provided by Savori Urbane – with heartfelt thanks to Oana and Diana.

Easter Pasca and painted eggs are enjoyed at Easter time in Romania
The pasca was delicious. After breakfast, alongside cozonac and red eggs, we had only half left – between the four of us. 🙂

Sights of Easter: red eggs and a sea of candles on Easter Night, at Resurrection Mass

To this day, my sights of Easter include red, yellow, green, and even blue colored eggs. Painting eggs was a right of passage, task that, with time, became mine, and was done on the Thursday or the Saturday before Easter (never on Good Friday). The colored eggs, too, would wait for Easter night, shining patiently from their basket.
Later I tried my hand at painting intricate motifs on them. It wasn’t the final product that mattered, but being part of something bigger than myself.

As is attending the midnight mass at Easter.

lighting candles, symbol of Easter and Christmas, The Light of Christ
Lighting candles at Easter, The Light of Christ

Bringing home the Holy Light of Easter

The excitement: attending an outdoors midnight Church service, then bringing home the Light of Resurrection, in the shape of a lit candle! (Where does it come from?)

On Saturday night, before midnight, families – big or small – would make their way to the nearest church. There is a whisper in the air, a measure in the step, a pious bowing of the head. We would wait in the church yard, already filled with neighbors. We would wait for the stroke of midnight, when the Priest would step outside with his candle, alight with the Holy Light. And from one small candle to the next, from one believer to the next, its hope – its light – would spread across the church yard.

Then everyone would sing, as one, the Holy Resurrection Hymn, a heartfelt confession of resurrection, and of the joy and faith a Christian holds in Christ’s promise.

“Hristos a înviat din morți
Cu moartea pe moarte călcând
Si celor din mormânturi
Viață dăruindu-le…”

Christ has risen from the dead
Trampling through death with His death,
Delivering life
To all those entombed.

(Holy Resurrection Hymn)

We would cradle, and protect, and take home the Holy Light of Easter.

Below is a 3 minutes video recording from the Metropolitan Cathedral, Iași:

Excitement: Egg knocking, or tapping, at Easter in Romania

The first person holds a colored Easter egg and says “Christ has resurrected” (‘Cristos a înviat’ in Romanian), while the second person answers, holding his colored egg, “Indeed, He has resurrected” (‘Adevarat a înviat’) – then the eggs are knocked.

Easter: pasca and hand painted eggs
Easter: pasca and hand painted eggs that we knock with family and friends and say:
“Christ has resurrected!” / ‘Cristos a înviat!’
“Indeed, He has resurrected!” / ‘Adevarat a înviat!’

The best Easter meal was the one we enjoyed right after the midnight mass, knocking eggs, taking a bite of drob with spring onion, and a bite or two of cozonac.

To this day, eating hard boiled eggs with spring onion tastes like Easter to me.

Happy Easter!
Christos a Inviat!


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28 Replies to “Easter in Romania, Scents, Sights, Sounds #Im4Ro”

  1. La salutul tău creștinesc Christos a înviat! îți răspund aici: Adevărat a înviat! Un Paște liniștit îți urez ție și frumoasei tale familii, că îmbelșugat văd că este. 🙂 Wow! Ai făcut Pască!!! 🙂 Adevărul e că așteptam cu nerăbdare postarea asta. Chiar eram curioasă dacă ai făcut Pască anul acesta. Arată extraordinar! Și zici că-i prima oară când faci Pască? 🙂

    1. Te pup, Jo. Sarbatori luminoase si binecuvantate 🙂 Ma bucur mult sa te VAD!

      M-ai ambitionat tu sa imi incerc mana la Pasca 🙂 NU?

      Sa stii ca am facut si branza de vaci. Din lapte UHT 2% grasime (am gasit how to pe YouTube). Atat de usor ca mi-a iesit si mie! Am facut un test-drive acum vreo doua saptamani si, cum a iesit gustoasa, m-am incumentat la Pasca. Reteta tot de pe net ca nu mai stiam proportiile. A iesit o Pasca nesperat de gustoasa 🙂

      Cred ca Pasca a iesit bine pentru ca sotul meu are mana buna la cozonaci 😉

      Te pup cu drag.

      1. Brutarul are o contribuție indiscutabilă, într-adevăr. Dar una din cunoștințele mele are o vorbă. De fiecare dată când primește laude pentru bucatele ei, răspunde: Asta pentru că le-am făcut cu dragoste. În concluzie, eu cred că meritul soțului tău este mult mai poetic decât o mână pricepută. 🙂 Felicitări încă o dată pentru rezultat. Eram convinsă că Pasca este nu numai arătoasă, ci și gustoasă.

  2. Your post is so warm, Patricia. As it happens, I am alone this Easter and reading it brought back dear memories from childhood. My Easter used to be exactly how you describe it. It was a very important holy day for grandma and I used to help in the kitchen while she taught me about the meaning and importance of Easter. It’s just she used to bake a little cozonac, the size of a muffin for me to sample then and there. 🙂 And it was soooo good. Anyway, I’m glad you pass this wonderful experience to your children. I’m sure they’re having an Easter to remember. The first time you made Pasca. Yay! 🙂 Happy Easter!

    1. Memories are what propels us forward, because they remind us where we come from. It’s like solid ground underneath our feet. And work 🙂 work is good for the soul (jeez, I sound like a little proletarian! 😉 )

      Your grandma knew best, to make a teeny-tiny cozonac for little Jo. Sweet! Kids live in the moment, she knew that so well.

      I think that we have such a rich tradition in Romania, around Easter time too. I find this effort rewarding. Besides, who can forget such overindulgence? 🙂

      1. I don’t think proletarians thought that people had a soul. 🙂 Keeping busy (work that is) is very important, indeed. That’s the thought of a wise person, not a proletarian. 🙂 So my dear wise one, let me hug you tight, tight. ❤️

  3. What a rich Easter culture you have in Romania and Moldavia and I thank you very much, Patricia, for having presented your touching memories to me/us. I have the impression that your sweet Cozonac is similar to our “Hefenkranz”. I have never had peppered parsley and will try it!

    1. Always a joy chatting to you, Martina. I was awaiting your beginning-of-the-month blog post. I hope all is well on your side.

      It is a beautiful tradition, good for the soul to share it, and for the old brain to reminiscent it.

      Oh, most definitely, your Hefenkranz must be just like cozonac. I hope you will get to taste drob one day 🙂

      1. I am very touched, Patricia, that you suspected that something was different with my blogging program! In fact my husband has got a malignant tumor and he can’t go on with his therapy because we both caught Covid and it takes such a long time to become negative!
        Your Easter tradition also shows how important it is to share it with your beloved ones!:)
        Stay healthy Martina

        1. Ah, Martina, I am saddened by your turmoil. I’ll send positive thoughts your way.
          I am sure that your determination, as well as your kind and proactive spirit (from what I’ve gathered reading your blog posts) will help you both put one foot in front of the other. Small steps.
          I hope the future will brighten up for both of you and will bring that negative result.
          Virtual hugs.

  4. Hi Patricia! I’m reading thid post already past Easter, but I really enjoyed learning all about the Romanian Easter traditions. The Romanian pasca keeps a big similarity to the Catalan mona, a very popular tradition where I’m from.

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