Monday, November 30, 2020

November 29-30 is Romania's Halloween

Since 1989 some parts of Romania, especially the region of Transylvania, celebrates Halloween on October 31st mainly as a western import due to its association with Vlad Tepes, who is said to have been Bram Stoker's inspiration for Dracula, becoming more popular after 2007 when Romania joined the European Union. The equivalent of Halloween for traditional Romanians is really celebrated on November 29-30, which is a public holiday known as Saint Andrew's Day. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Romania who is known as the Apostle who brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the land.

The superstitious believe that on Saint Andrew’s Eve, November 29th, the border between the physical world and the invisible world vanishes, ghosts and ghouls come to life, magic is more powerful and therefore a series of charms and rituals must be performed to protect the household, animals, and people. On this particular day the future can be revealed: girls who want to dream of their future husbands hide a little branch of basil under their pillow, peasants plant wheat seeds and pray it will sprout so that the next year will bring plentiful crops, animals and especially wolves are said to be given the gift of speech but whoever hears their secrets will be cursed, and the weather on Saint Andrew’s Day is a preview of the winter to come.

No one goes out the night of November 29th, since this night is the most dangerous for being attacked by wolves or vampires or witches, and with the thinning of the veil between the living and the dead, you are more susceptible to being a victim of a ghost. This is also the time when you are most in danger of hearing a wolf speak secret things, and you will then turn into a werewolf. Saint Andrew alone can overpower the evils that accompany this night.

November 30th is effectively the last day of fall so in the countryside it is known as ‘Andrew’s head of winter’ enabling both Good and Evil to emerge in this world. This is why Romanians observe this day in rest and prayer. No chores are done around the household. Also, they try not to eat anything on November 30th.  It is believed that if a Romanian could hold a fast on this day, many of his or her wishes about marriage and/or health would come true.

While carved pumpkins decorate the homes on October 31st in the West, in Romania on November 29-30 garlic hangs over the doors and windows and stables to protect against evil spirits, wolves, vampires, unhappiness and charms. Also in Romania, garlic is quite popular to treat the common cold, and if sprinkled with holy water it will also attract your future spouse around Saint Andrew’s Day. Mothers will also draw small crosses on the palms of their small children to protect them.

How did these superstitious customs originate? In ancient times, the ancestors of the Romanians, known as the Dacians, used to celebrate another divinity, the master of wolves, who was replaced with Saint Andrew. November 30 also marked the end of autumn and the beginning of winter, as well as the day when wolves formed packs of twelve in order to hunt and prepare for the hard winter. Therefore, the Day of the Wolves was very important and the rituals were intimately connected with them. At present time, Saint Andrew’s Day is celebrated like any other Orthodox Christian feast, but some old superstitions are also respected, which are in direct connection with ancient beliefs that survived the time. As a result, it is believed that this day enhances the magical powers of the wizards so the witchcraft and spells cast this day are stronger and more powerful than other days.

In cities, these ritual were adapted and transformed into a party scene quite similar to Halloween, so from villages to cities, this holiday keeps the entirety of Romania awake.