[SERIES: IT’S A ROMANIAN THING] SÂNZIENELE

In the land of RoJAM there are a myriad of things happening on a regular basis. Consider this series as our way of keeping you up to date with the local scene so you won’t feel this as an alien world.

The Romanian event calendar is sprinkled with many celebrations, most of which are of Christian-Orthodox origin. Among these, you will stumble across the occasional pagan inspired celebration that people keep just as happily and strictly as the others.

Enter the fairies. Yes, fairies. Quite fitting, you might say, for a country that is famous for hosting Dracula. Every year Romanians take the day of June 24th to bring an homage to the beloved fairies we call Sânziene. These days, since lots of the population has turned to the urban, they are much less revered than in the old days.

These fairies have various names, Sânziene, Drăgaice, Iele, but they all conjure up the same image –  of enchantingly beautiful and magical women, dancing an endless hora in the fields or in the forest. It is said that they roam the skies and the earth on the days of the 23rd and 24th of June, handing out riches to the crops, fertility to married women, healing powers to herbs, perfume to flowers and ailment to those in pain. In return, people celebrate them, lest they should become angry and bring about storms and destruction to crops.

The day of the 24th came with quite a few traditions but these days people only keep very few. One of them is decorating the gate or the door with the flower called lady’s bedstraw (Galium Verum), otherwise known as Sânziene in Romanian (yes, the same as the fairies). Crowns of these flowers will also be made, one for each member of the family and then everyone throws their own on the roof. If it stays there, they will have a good year, if it falls off, it might not be so great. Young men and women might take a flower and put it under their pillow, in hopes of dreaming the person they are destined to marry.

In a more recent “tradition”, the 24th has become a time for Romanians to proudly wear their traditional blouses called “Ie”. So, men and women alike will “compete” in sporting the most intricately decorated blouse they have, either new or directly out of their grandparents’ dowry.

All in all, it’s a fresh and beautiful celebration amidst the scorching heat at the end of June, delightful for both visitors and locals alike. That aside, what you should take away from this article are these words of advice: if coming to Romania, learn to dance the hora – as even our fairies have learned to do.