There’s a tradition in Romania that, I’m almost certain, is unique.
While people living in other countries celebrate only their birthday, Romanians can have a second celebration – the name day.
It is valid for people who were given the name of a saint: Maria (Mary), Ion ( John), Vasile(Basil), Petre (Peter), Gheorghe(George), Andrei(Andrew) and so on.
Each saint has his or her day in the calendar, so on that date the people with a saint name have a party.
While for birthdays you have to be invited to go to that person’s house, on the name day everyone who wants to congratulate the celebrated person can come. There are no invitations. Usually people bring flowers and candy-boxes to women and flowers and drink bottles to men. ( You may imagine how happy are florists around here).
On 26th October, tomorrow, there’s a great festivity as there’s St Dumitru’s day( Demeter). All women and men called Dumitra, Dumitru, Dumitrita celebrate and receive gifts from family and friends.
Folk tradition says that, on this day, warmth goes inside the earth and cold comes out. St Dumitru takes the leaves out of the trees and makes the flowers go dry. On this day the doors are unlocked and winter is released on earth.
Fire has a great symbolism now. Fire is a pastoral divinity protecting the shepherds and purifying the sheep.
On St Dumitru’s Eve people start a night ceremonial fire called Samedru’s fire.Children jump over the fire, when the flames aren’t high, to be healthy all along the year. The old people of the village throw a piece of cinder from that fire in the garden to give it the power to bear fruit again the next spring.
This ceremony is century old and has a preChristian origin. In ancient times people started the fires to allow the spirits of the dead, coming on earth, to get warm.
On St Dumitru’s Eve, shepherds lay a sheepskin down, among the sheep. If a black sheep comes and sits on it the winter will be mild, if a white sheep comes and sits on it the winter will be a harsh one.
Women must share dry fruits, nuts and apples to the children and a special service is held in churches.
Wishing all who celebrate their name day tomorrow – my husband included - a long healthy life, full of joy!
And here’s the traditional Romanian wish -
Sa traiesti cu numele!