In Romania, it is now:

Friday, December 31, 2010

Well Seasoned (Part I)

I'm writing this on a train which is making slow progress through the snowy fairyland of Transylvania--fields, mountains, streams, villages--on our nine-hour trip to Brasov. We'll arrive in time to celebrate the New Year with some of my Peace Corps colleagues tonight and then Lee and I will enjoy this wonderful old city for a few days until our Monday return. I finally have a little time to write and so much to tell about the events of the past few weeks. Christmas in Romania has been a whirlwind of song and dance, food and drink (hot, spicy wine (vin fiert) and polinka (dinka-doo!) in great abundance), and the kind of warm-hearted hospitality that should characterize the season everywhere.****Lee arrived in time for the community Christmas program, a presentation of traditional and modern dance and song, poetry and holiday songs in both Romanian and English, and a contest of table settings (our documentarian's idea) by the different classes, judged by Santa Claus, himself. It was a evening everyone seemed to enjoy (see pictures.) A few days later, on the last day of school before the Christmas holidays, I had the great pleasure of presenting the teachers at my school gift bags I filled from the boxes of supplies my Unitarian Universalist Fellowship back home sent. The boxes arrived just in time and I loved making up the bags of everything from post-it notes to staplers to stickers to pens. They were surprised and in a festive mood they sang their thanks--some beautiful Romanian carols in 3-part harmony!****The next day our son Dan arrived from California. Lee and I had bought a small tree and decorated it and had lights in the landing window outside our flat, a star wreath on the door. I was disappointed the snow had melted, but he got to experience plenty starting the day after Christmas. On Christmas Eve we had the great pleasure of accepting an invitation through my friend/colleague Connie to spend the afternoon and evening in a village just south of Oradea. Our hosts (friends of Connie's) were warm-hearted Romanians who had spent some time in the US and spoke very good English. They wanted us to experience the carolers, food, traditions of their village. Lucky us! The food was a feast of all things Romanian, the homemade wine and polinka well-done, and the walk through the little town with a visit to the Orthodox Church and its priest was a highlight. (see pictures) The priest is an accomplished architect and artist and is adorning the interior of the domed sanctuary in colorful, accurately portrayed iconic paintings. He has been working on this project in faith and artistry for a few years now and is determined to complete the task. He has created a space for worship filled with joy--colorful, light, and welcoming. He also had us join him in the parsonage for a sip of polinka and/or homemade wine from his grapes. While there, carolers visited--one of three carolings of the evening. Different from the Dickensian singers with choir-like decorum (our British/American ideals), the carolers here are revelers, often wearing animal or demon masks, wearing fur capes, beating drums, and acting out cautionary tales. Someone always seems to represent good, too--a priest-like character in white who carries a replica of the church constructed of cardboard and foil. We were told the masks and capes were often passed down from one generation to the next in a family, along with the particular role. (In a restaurant in Oradea on the 23rd, we were visited by strolling carolers who sang, acted, and danced the "goat dance," something I want to learn more about.) Another group we encountered on our walk--teens led by a different priest--seemed less costumed and medieval, but were just as eager in their singing. It has become more and more clear to me that singing is a very Romanian way to give of oneself. A gift of song is always the right size, always appropriate, always from the heart. (to be continued)


  1. These special days are nearly as wonderful to read about as they must be to live. Wish that I, too, could hear the caroling. We haven't had Christmas carolers at our house in years, but maybe when you get home we can revive the tradition. (And if you learn the goat dance and will teach it, there might be a whole bunch of us old goats out there!)

  2. How delightful it has been to follow your Christmas ventures in Romania. Great photos too. A Happy New Year to you!