Sfantul Andrei Traditions

Our very securely bolted gate

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!

Hram (Village Day) 2017

Each year, every village, town, and city in Moldova celebrates a holiday called hram.  On this day, friends and family come to visit, large meals are prepared, and there is usually a concert in the evening.  The date of hram varies from village to village, town to town.  It is based on the saint’s day of the oldest church in the village or town.  Each church is named after a saint, and when it’s that saint’s holiday, the village or town celebrates.  Although the date comes from the church’s name and there are religious celebrations related to it, the holiday also celebrates the founding of the village or town.

My village’s hram occurs every year on November 21st.  The school is closed and everyone celebrates.  This year, my village celebrated 314 years since the first documentation of a village here.  I spent the morning with my host family, and my host mom prepared a gorgeous spread.  We weren’t sure if we’d have any visitors as my host siblings and their families weren’t coming, but my host parents’ nașii, or wedding godparents, joined us as well as some friends of my host dad.

In the evening, I headed to our casa de cultura (cultural house/community center) for the concert.  A number of traditional dance and music groups performed as well as the well-known singer Zinaida Julea (listen to some of her music here).  Of course, my favorite performance was that of the students from the traditional music and dance school in my village.  They are all my students at school and I love to see them perform- they are incredibly talented and they were even called onstage for an encore performance last night!

I spent the remainder of the evening talking to my host mom until way too late!  It was a beautiful day and celebration.

Ziua Profesorului (Teacher’s Day) 2017

An 8th grade student presents her class’s wishes for the teachers.
A 6th grade students shares wishes for the teachers.
Some 8th graders present a poem for the teachers.

October 5 is International Teacher’s Day, and here in Moldova it’s a very big holiday (read about last year’s celebration here).  At our school, we started the day off with a short assembly outside in the school’s courtyard.  One student from each class presented their wishes for the teachers and thanked them for the work they do.

Some teachers at the school.
Some teachers at the school (I’m in the front in the center).

On Thursdays, my partner Liuba and I teach our younger students in 2nd through 3rd grade.  One of the Moldovan traditions for Teacher’s Day is for older students to teach some of the lessons throughout the day instead of the teachers.

A 9th grade student teachers one of our 3rd grade classes.
An 8th grade student teaches the other 3rd grade class.

For our two 3rd grade classes, two girls, one in 8th grade and one in 9th grade, taught our lessons.  We sat in the back and helped a little as needed.  The 3rd graders were very excited to have older students teach the class and the two “teachers” did a good job.

8th grade students perform in a concert for the teachers.
Students perform a humorous skit.

During our classes, some of the students gave us flowers and other prepared small speeches to thank us.  According to one of my 4th grade boys, I am very pretty and they like to have lessons with me very much because I never yell at them.

8th grade girls sing for the teacgers.
All of the teachers, with the 8th grade students.

After lessons, some of the teachers went to our raion center for a big concert and ceremony, but I didn’t join them.  On Friday, the 8th graders prepared a concert for us, with poems, songs, and even a skit.  Then, that evening, all of the teachers went to a larger nearby town to have a really nice party at a restaurant.  We ate, drank, and danced for several hours.  It was a really nice celebration and everyone seemed to have a very nice time.

Language Day

Some of my students make cotton candy

Each year, Moldova celebrates two major holidays during the last week of August.  Independence Day is celebrated on August 27th, and Language Day, a celebration of the Romanian language, is celebrated on August 31st.  Last year, I attended Independence Day celebrations in Chisinau, but this year I celebrated the two holidays in my village, along with my sister who was visiting from the USA.

This year, my village did a large, combined celebration for both holidays held on the 28th.  There was a ceremony to dedicate a new plaque on the side of our casa de cultura (literally, cultural house, but more like a community center), a large masă (celebration with food and wine), various singing and dancing performances, and competitions.  The students from the music and dance school in our village performed a routine I hadn’t seen before.

One of the baking competition winners receiving her diploma

For the first time, our village had a competition of the best cow in the village as well as the best homemade brînză (sheep, goat, or cow cheese made at home), smântână (sour cream), unt (butter), frişcă (cream), various cakes and other pastries, and pâine (bread).

Pole Climbing Competition Winner

After the singing and dancing had concluded, the boys and men in the village participated in sports competitions.  Younger boys competed to climb to the top of a tall metal pole (that we estimated to be about 50 feet tall, at least) the fastest, men and older boys competed in a volleyball game, and boys of all ages competed in a wrestling match.  The winner of the pole climbing competition, Vadim, won a live rooster, while the winner of the wrestling match won a live sheep.

Amir (my new site mate), me, my students, and my school director. (Photo Credit: Heather Ogden)

It was a lot of fun and a cool celebration of Moldovan traditions and customs.  I was really glad my sister was able to go with me and get a taste of a Moldovan holiday and celebration.

Thanks to my sister, Heather, for a few of the photos featured here!

Ziua Copiilor (Children’s Day)

2nd grade students get ready to start off the day.

Here in Moldova, June 1st is both the first day of summer vacation from school and Children’s Day, which is celebrated as a main holiday.  Some towns have begun to celebrate Children’s Day on the last day of school once school has been released, but my village still celebrates it on June 1st.

2nd grade students hand out butterfly pins to the teachers
Some of the teachers and students from my school
Doamna Maria and Doamna Galina receive butterfly pins
Doamna Maria and Doamna Feodora (my school director) show off their butterfly pins.
2nd grade students perform a song and dance

It’s a day of games, singing, dancing, and free ice cream for kids!  In my village, we celebrated at our park, which is fairly new (when I visited for my site visit last July, the “park” was just a wide open space, but now we have a large playground, swings, and even a small pavilion).

4th grade students singing
Younger students from our village’s music and dance school perform
Traditional Moldovan dancing
Older students from the music and dance school perform

The day started by a performance by 2nd grade students and continued with various singing and dance performances, including some by our traditional music and dance school.

9th grade graduates perform a beautiful dance
9th grade graduates with Doamna Maria and Doamna Valentina, one of their homeroom teachers.

The last performance was by a group of graduating 9th grade students, who performed the same dance they did on the last day of school.

Me with two of my 9th grade students
Me with two of my 8th grade students

After the scheduled performances, there was an open mic competition for poetry and singing, as well as a chalk drawing competition.  These were judged by teachers from our school and there were several winners in each category, all of whom received some small prizes (balls, notebooks, drawing pads, and pens).

It was a beautiful day and most of the activities were set up in the shade.  I really enjoyed the day and it was nice to see everyone enjoying the celebrations.