Hristos a inviat!

Pasca, traditional Moldovan Easter bread

Yesterday was Easter, both according to the Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christian calendars.  This is actually a pretty rare occasion, as usually the two Easters do not fall on the same Sunday.  Here in Moldova, Easter is by far the number one most important and biggest holiday of the year.

Most Moldovans (though certainly not all) participate in post, or a fast, for the entirety of the 40 days of lent.  This means that for the 40 days leading up to Easter, they do not eat meat, fish, butter, milk, and other dairy products.  They also do not drink wine or other alcohol.  They also do not consume oil for a number of days throughout this time (though not the entire 40 days).  The most devout Orthodox Christians do a full fast (no food) for the final 3 days before Easter.  They are allowed to eat wafers and drink Holy water during these 3 days, but nothing else.

Pasca: a sweet yummy bread

The week before Easter is also full of a number of various services, including several that last six to twelve hours long (during which you stand or kneel on a hard surface for the entire time- there are no pews or chairs in churches in Moldova, except for the elderly or sick).  I went with my host parents to a service on Friday night.  We arrived around 5PM and my host dad and I stayed until nearly 11PM (my host mom stayed for the entirety of the service, which didn’t end until about 4:30AM).  Towards the end of when I was there, everyone gathered with candles and followed a procession made of a number of men holding a cross, some banners, and the lid of a coffin around the outside of the church.  I believe this service was both to honor the saints and to mark Good Friday, the death of Jesus.

My host sister, bathed in candle light

Saturday was full of preparations for the following day: my host mom made and decorated pasca, special Easter bread, as well as all of the food for Easter morning.  We also made sure the house and outdoor spaces were perfectly in order.  On Saturday night, my host mom and sister left to go to the church for the all-night service around 8PM.  My host dad and I went to bed, hoping to get some sleep before we got up at 3AM to head to the church as well.  We arrived at the church around 4 in the morning.  The church was packed full of people, and there were several hundred gathered outside and on the nearby roads.  My host dad and I waited outside for a bit before my host sister and host mom found us, and then I was ushered inside the church because my host mom was worried it was cold outside.

Awaiting the priest to bless our food and selves

Inside the church, everything was lit only by candles.  There were songs and scripture readings, and then everyone went in a line so that the priest could put a cross of scented oil on each person’s forehead.  After this part was finished, everyone headed outside and lined the roads near the church.  Each family stood together and had brought a basket full of food and treats to be blessed by the priest.  I couldn’t see everyone, but my host mom told me there were probably about 2,000 plus people there.  As we stood outside, it was still dark and it was also drizzling slightly, so the candles didn’t stay lit very well.  The priest passed by each person twice, first with incense, and then with water.  He dipped a bunch of basil in holy water and then sprayed in over the food gathered in baskets and the people.  It was actually a lot of water- my whole face and front was soaked.

The priest’s procession with Holy water as dawn arrives

After, everyone walked home and broke their fast with a large and heavy meal, complete with wine.  All before 7 in the morning!  Once everyone’s bellies are full, everyone heads to bed and sleeps for the next several hours, then they have another large meal and more wine.  This was repeated once again, after another nap, at night.

Planting Seeds + A Weekend Home

This past weekend, I went home once again.  It was weird to be home two weekends in a row.  Although I did not get much sleep over the weekend, it was certainly nice to be home.  Friday night, my mom and sister went to a mother-daughter party at a friend’s house, so my dad and I went out for dinner, which is something we rarely do.  It was nice to sit and talk for quite awhile (and eat some good food).  Then Saturday morning, I went with my sister to get her alterations done for prom.  The alterations were done at our local fabric shop, so I also looked around at the beautiful fabrics.

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My mom’s one request while I was home was to start peppers and tomatoes inside in preparation for our garden.  Although we have plastic containers for this task, we decided to use the many old egg cartons we have saved over the year instead.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn case you’re wondering how to do this, I figured I would share the (very easy) steps.  First, you want to tear the egg carton in half as shown above.  If you want, you can cut off any excess that’s on the sides.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, you fill each of the holes up a little over halfway with potting soil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext, place one seed in each circle (some people put two seeds in and then thin to just one plant, but we didn’t want to bother with that later on, so we just did one seed).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen fill each hole up to the top and lightly water. And you’re all set!  Really easy, right?

After planting our seeds, I decided I should go on a run.  I forgot that I haven’t been doing any hills while at college (it’s pretty flat here, but not at home), and almost died, but I made it up the hill to my grandparents’ and visited for a short while.

Saturday night was spent hanging out with my best friends from high school- we didn’t get to sleep until about 4 AM, then got up early that morning.  I’m still recovering from the lack of sleep.  Sunday morning, my family went to church, and then we returned home to start our Easter dinner.  We considered not making a dinner because it was just the four of us, but my sister insisted that we have a full meal.  Once the ham was in the oven, we decided to go for a hike up on the hill.  It started raining just before we got back to the truck.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a delicious dinner, I snuggled up on the couch until it was time to return to college.  I have to keep reminding myself that it’s less than 2 weeks until break- I cannot wait!