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!