Easter or Paste (pronounced: pah-sh-T) is the most important religious holiday in Moldova. The date of the Easter holiday here is based on the lunar-solar calendar and varies from year to year, but this year, Easter in Moldova coincided with Easter in the United States, meaning that for Christian Peace Corps Volunteers it was a chance to celebrate both.
In the month leading up to Easter in Moldova, Moldovans often keep poste (post) which means they can not eat any animal products, meat, cheese or eggs, although some will simply refrain from meat and others choose not to keep this tradition at all. This poste, is similar to lent, in that it runs from the month before Easter until Easter.
There are many traditions regarding Easter in Moldova. There is a midnight mass, running from 12a until around 5 or 6a, where families will generally send a representative (or two) from the family to take bread and wine to be blessed by the priest. After this service the entire family will meet for a masa (large celebratory meal), where the first food eaten must be the blessed bread. This masa generally contains lots and lots of meat, since supposedly the people eating have been refraining from eating meat for the last month. Lamb serves as the primary meat during Easter, but of course these masas, contain plenty of other national food.
Another tradition related to Easter in Moldova is similar to the United States, in that you dye eggs. The traditional color for dyeing is red, but it can be any color and there are stickers sold to further decorate these eggs. There is a competition where one person holds one of these hardboiled eggs and another takes their own hardboiled egg and then smashes them together. The winner (the person who’s egg is not cracked) then continues to egg-off against others at the table and the winner receives a prize, either money or an easter cake.
During the Easter season, it is customary to greet people with “Hristos a inviat” which means “Christ is risen”. And the reply for this greeting is “Adevarat a inviat”, which translates to approximately “Indeed he is risen”. Apparently, some people might actually be offended if you greet them by just saying “Hi, how are you” on Easter.
This year to celebrate Easter, I was invited to my co-worker Anna’s house. We went to her Grandmother’s house at 8a to enjoy a masa, where I won the egg game. After this we went for a walk, and then proceeded to visit three of her relation’s houses, all of which were on the same street. In each house we were offered drinks and food, meaning that by the time we were heading back to the center of town I was stuffed. Anna’s family was welcoming, incredibly friendly, great and I got to experience a lot of the traditions described above!