Romanian Traditions on Palm Sunday
The most important celebration in the Christian calendar, Easter, is approaching.
This year, Easter is celebrated on the same day in both the Western and Easter Churches. The majority of Romanians (over 80%) belong to the Christian Orthodox Church, with many being very religious. This means that, if you are visiting Romania in the time around Easter, you will notice people here attending the special church masses in big numbers and also following various quite interesting traditions. Even if you join a free walking tour in Bucharest you will spot some of these things taking place, that is why it’s important to explain the reasons behind these actions.
A week before Easter, on this Sunday, April 9, Christians all over the world – Romania included – are celebrating Palm Sunday: the day that commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In Romania, this celebration is known as the ‘Florii’, meaning in translation ‘flowers’. That is why, everyone whose name is that of a flower (for example: Florin, Florica, Margareta etc.) is also being celebrated. So you might be served with chocolate candies and you can congratulate the people celebrating their name day by telling them: ‘La multi ani!’.
In preparation for Palm Sunday, Romanians gather willow branches on the day before tying them together and taking them to church for the Sunday mass where the branches will be blessed by the priest. After being blessed, they will be taken back home where they will be hung and kept until autumn in different spots around the house: above the religious icons, windows, doors, fountain, entrances.
It also believed that these willow branches can be used to heal diseases, so they highly cherished by the people in Romania. In some regions, people will even tie the blessed branches around their waists with the belief that it will help alleviate their back aches or heal whatever they suffer from at that point. Young unmarried women ill place the blessed branches under their pillow with the hope that it will make them more beautiful and help them find a suitable husband.
There is another superstitions that says that if you receive communion on Palm Sunday and make a wish afterwards, the wish will come true sooner than if you had made a wish on another day. Palm Sunday is also the last day on which ladies can untie their Martisor bracelets they had been wearing since March 1 and they can tie it on the branch of a tree in bloom, marking the definite return of the warm season.
A long time ago, it was believed that the willow branches laid around the icons after Palm Sunday could protect against storms, lighting and hail. That is why people would throw these branches into the fire when menacing storm clouds gathered. So, this Sunday, we would recommend you to attend the church mass in a Romanian Orthodox Church for at least 15 minutes, in order to get a better look at Eastern spirituality. After this, because the weather forecast is fantastic, we would recommend you a walk around Bucharest and, if you want to learn more about the city’s history, to join a free walking tour.