Tomorrow (December 13) is a holiday in Moldova that is celebrated on the saint day of Sfantul Andrei. I think it’s one of the most interesting of Moldovan holidays and there are many varied traditions associated with it, most of which occur tonight.
Of the traditions, the most prominent (and most unusual to us Americans) is the stealing of gates. The tradition is very old. Tonight, boys and young men in the village will steal the front gates from the houses of the girl or young woman they like. They hide the gate and the following morning the girl is supposed to go find the gate and return it to its place. I’ve been assured (thankfully) that our gate is impossible to remove but I’ve heard numerous stories told by my host family of years past. One year, before my host dad bolted it so securely there’s no way to remove it, a neighbor boy stole it and hid it in a river bed. Another gate, this one wooden and therefore lighter and easier to take, was once stolen from a neighbor’s house and was found in a tree at the mayor’s office the next morning.
There are other traditions as well, though many of them are rarely celebrated today. My host mom remembers several from when she was a girl, though she thinks there were more of them. Girls would take a rooster from the pen and take it inside. They’d place it in front of a mirror and put a dish of water and a dish of food in front of it. If the rooster drank the water first, it meant they would marry a man who liked to drink, but if the rooster ate the food first, it meant their future husband would really like to eat.
Another traditions was to go to the neighborhood well with a group of friends. At the well, they would fill their mouths with water and then return back to the house with the water still in their mouth. They would then mix the water with various flours and grains to make little biscuits. These were placed in a line in front of a dog. If the dog chose your biscuit to eat first, it meant you’d be the first to marry.
Yet another tradition was to take thin wooden poles/branches and decorate them and place them outside overnight. If the pole had warped or twisted, it meant your future husband wouldn’t be very handsome, but if it remained straight, it meant your husband would be very good looking.
While these traditions seem a bit strange to an American, my host mom remembers them fondly and my students are looking forward to the holiday. My host mom said I’m the only “domnișoara” (unmarried young woman) in the neighborhood, so we’ll see if anyone tries to steal our gate tonight!
As I mentioned in this blog post, I’m participating in Dressember again this year. I’ve worn a dress for the past 8 days and I’ve also been posting information in both English and Romanian on my social media accounts. Here are the facts and photos I’ve shared this week.
Did you know?
What is Dressember? A lot of women are passionate about ending human trafficking, but feel powerless to do anything. Dressember creates a path for the busy woman to have a significant impact on ending a dark injustice. By wearing the Dressember uniform- a dress every day in December- she uses her voice to advocate for the freedom of all people.
How can a dress change the world?
Human trafficking is the #1 growing industry in the world, and the 2nd largest international criminal industry.
What is human trafficking? Human trafficking is modern day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others.
How widespread is human trafficking? 40.3 million people are living in modern slavery today.
Moldova is currently #37 on the Global Slavery Index.
Last Friday I was at school and heading to a class when Doamna Angela, a 3rd grade teacher, approached me and asked if I was busy that afternoon and evening. Doamna Angela and her husband, Alexandru, run the traditional music and dance school in our village. I told her I didn’t have plans and she asked me if I had my camera with me (I did). “Perfect!” she said, “Will you come with the dance ensemble to a competition in Chisinau and film it?” I absolutely love the rare opportunities to watch the dance ensemble, made up of about 20 8th through 9th grade students I teach at school, so I immediately said yes.
I’ll be honest- I really didn’t know any details when I said yes except that we would be leaving right after my class and that it was in Chisinau. On the bus on the way to Chisinau, Angela and Alexandru said that we were going to a festival and competition called Constellation of Talents and that it was an international talent competition. My students didn’t end up performing until almost 10 in the evening (the video above), but I got to hang out with the group until then and watch the rest of the concert and competition. There were at least 13 countries represented, mostly from Eastern Europe but also from Vietnam and a group from an African country.
There were various categories including modern dance, traditional dance, singing, verbal art (poetry), and modelling. Our group was competing in the traditional dance category. Groups that the judges felt did a good job on the first and second days of the competition were called back to compete in the final round on Sunday. My students did a fantastic job on Friday, and though I didn’t accompany them, were called back on Sunday, and won grand prize!! They also received invitations to two other international competitions, one in Romania, and one in Bulgaria. My students were so excited to tell me that they had won when I saw them in class on Monday! They work incredibly hard and are so incredibly talented! I am so proud of them!
Last week, our school celebrated Youth Day. The Student Council made a video and put together an hour-long performance for the 8th and 9th grade students. I was really impressed by how quickly they put everything together and learned the dances and songs!
There was a mix of some songs, dances, and one big musical skit. Most of the performances were humorous and they did a great job! After, there was a short dance for the 8th and 9th graders.