Epiphany Day in Romania: Why priests bless waters?

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While in many countries the winter holiday ends immediately after the New Year’s Eve, Romania still continue to celebrate.

While in many countries the winter holiday ends immediately after the New Year’s Eve, Romania still continue to celebrate. The 6th and the 7th of January marks another two important holidays, Boboteaza (Epiphany Day) and St. John the Baptist. Actually, these two holidays are in very close connection because Boboteaza or the Epiphany Day, marks the moment when Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan river by Saint John the Baptist and the fallowing holiday, focuses only on the life of the saint. While St. John’s Day has mainly a religious importance, Boboteaza is far more captivating because it’s richer in pagan rituals. Beside that, it marks the end of the magical period started on November 30, on St. Andrew’s Day.

On Boboteaza’s Eve, the priests both from cities and the countryside, enter the people’s houses to bless the family and the household with Holy Water and basil. The young and unmarried girls keep a very close eye to the holy basil wisp of the priests as it is believed that a basil twig put under the pillow on this specific night will help them to dream their chosen one. You can imagine that it’s quite embarrassing to ask the priest for a basil twig but, Boboteaza is just once each year so, no girl wants to miss her chance. Sometimes, the priests are very sympathetic and understand the situation so they willingly offer basil to the girls but not all priests agree these pagan practices.

Some families are expecting the priest with a table full of traditional dishes exactly like in the Christmas Eve and wait for him to bless the food before eating or even tasting it. Some part of the food is offered to animals so they will be healthy and spared by the wild animals all year long. Also, in some regions, it is believed that on this night the animals can talk and reveal secret locations of ancient treasures. The wizards and local healers make special rituals and predict the weather according to some specific signs.

Epiphany Day in Romania

Boboteaza (the Epiphany Day) is also known as the Day of Waters and priests all over Romania keep a special ceremony near the most important water source of the communities – a lake, a river, a fountain or near the Black Sea in Dobrogea region. Commonly, an ice cross is made in advance to mark the place of the ceremony and after blessing and purifying the waters, a small wood cross is thrown in the water. The most brave and courageous men go swimming in the cold waters to recover the cross as the first to get it back will have, according to ancient beliefs, good luck the whole year.

As all the waters became holy, no one is allowed to launder for the next seven days. People must not quarrel or lend money as these things, apparently, may bring them many misfortunes. But if girls accidentally fall on ice on this specific day, it’s a sign that they will definitely marry that year. More or less accidentally, in the past, almost all girls fell on ice as it was more bearable a broken arm, for example, that remaining and old maid.

St. John’s Day is also a moment of relaxation and those named after the saint enjoy their name-day together with family and friends. Approximately two million persons are named after St. John and almost each family has at least one close relative to celebrate. Thus, Romanian families end its winter holidays with one last cheerful reunion enjoying great food and the good vibes of traditional folk music.