We are born. Tiny, squirmy little beings welcomed into this world. We grow up and then old. We die. It is part of the cycle.
Each culture has its own way of dealing with the departure of a loved one, its own ways of handling it, of finding solace and peace after the event. One common element is the gathering after the funeral and the community involved.
Today we shall look at Eastern Europe, Romania, and see how the community and how gatherings are organized during and after funerals.
In Romania, the community and food play a great role in the life of the individual. Especially at the country side where traditions are held high, from birth to death there are very many people involved and each meal and food has significance. The customs are different for all three moments: the death, the funeral, after the funeral.
Immediately after someone dear passes away, it is customary that the old ladies close to the family will come and help prepare the body, prepare the house and help with all the requirements for the funeral. They will prepare the colivă, the colaci, the gogoși and other traditional foods that will be served during the wake and after the funeral. They will usually stay with the family the whole time until the burial and it helps the family to not feel alone, take time to process the passing of the loved one and not worry about the organization and technical details of the funeral.
There are always two nights of viewing where acquaintances, friends and family come to say their goodbyes and offer their condolences. Traditionally, a strong Romanian spirit called țuică would be offered together with Romanian gogoși, similar to the German kraffen. Depending on the region, this viewing can take the shape of a party: a last celebration for the loved one among his/ her friends.
During the funeral, the colivă, a sweet dish of boiled wheat sweetened with sugar or honey and spiced with cinnamon or anise is prayed upon and then served to the guests in remembrance of the parted on. This is a very common dish served on special occasions almost everywhere in the Balcan region where the Eastern Orthodox Church is present. Together with the colivă there are also colaci, a sweet braided bread.
After the funeral, there is a big gathering at the family’s house where people will dine and drink together and take part in many customs like going around the main table while carrying incense. In some other parts of the country, people would hang sweets and candies on a small tree or on a tree branch and then share it with the guests as a symbol of the generosity the deceased one showed while alive. At the gathering, the family will also give away objects that once belonged to the parted one.
There are 12 more gatherings in the memory of the deceased after the funeral, each consisting of close friends and family getting together for a religious ceremony and then a meal. There is one 9 days after the funeral, one after 40 days commemorating the Ascension Day which was 40 days after the Resurrection, one after 3, 6 and 9 months and then once every year for the next seven years.
As you can see, in the Romanian culture memory and remembrance are very important, just like to the community. While in some cultures friends and the extended family only get together for the funeral, in Romania we have them present from the very first day. It is a symbol of respect for the deceased, it is done to show that their soul can go in peace for their family is taken care of and they don’t need to worry.
How does your culture handle this life event? Do you find resemblances to this eastern European country?
This is a guest post by Anda Todoran