Romanian traditions


Romanians are wonderful people but as far as the authorities are concerned if  there’s the most difficult solution to a simple problem you can be pretty sure they will apply it. Being in the European Union has given the bureaucrats another million reasons to make almost anything as difficult as possible. After a week of wrestling with this amazing bureaucracy, to the point where I was tempted to give up and go home early, along comes a young man who arrives when he says he will, does the job quickly and efficiently and the cost at the end, very reasonable, was at the bottom of his estimate range rather than the top. Details at the end of this post.

Missing books

It began with a search for two books in the attic of my parents-in-law, where some 14 years ago I had stored a lot of ‘stuff’ and hardly approached it since. The books: proceedings of a conference in, if I remember correctly, USA and Mexico simultaneously, on using internet in English teaching, at which I presented a paper from Romania, Bucharest, at around midnight – very unusual in the mid 1990s; the other book was about English idioms, by George Stan, head of English at Liceul National in Iași where I was teaching at the time – a great guy who gave me a really generous acknowledgement in the book for my editing of it.

Sadly, neither book was there. Most of the ‘stuff’ was now junk but I was excited to find three ‘gems’ – three VHS tapes, one labelled ‘An English Nativity Play’, another ‘Școala nr.1 (School no.1) Suceava/email project’, the third was a recording of a show celebrating 8th March (1998) at a different school.

First tape

Petronela’s parents have a working VHS player and with some trepidation I put in the first of the tapes and pushed ‘play’. I was taken back to Christmas 1994 and the nativity play was as I hoped, that performed by my students at School No.1 in Burdujeni, Suceava; it was also broadcast by a local tv station on Christmas Day itself. The angel who brought the good news to the shepherds I met about a week ago though she is now a lawyer in Baia Mare – Anca, who I wrote about in my previous post. Other former students who I hope to meet over the next 2 or 3 weeks also feature in the play.

Second tape

The second tape was a presentation of some of the email projects (my conference paper was about these) done by the same group of students, who eventually named themselves the ‘Allstars’. The presentation was to an American couple who delivered ‘obsolete’ IBM laptops to Romanian schools. I used one, eventually two, in email projects as part of my English teaching, linking up with, eg, schools in Vancouver and Northumbria, UK – no Windows, but using MsDos.

Third tape

The Allstars also formed themselves into a Leo Club, 'adopting' a special needs class (the Bunnies) in another school. Here they are shown on a picnic the Allstars organised for the Bunnies


The Allstars also formed themselves into a Leo Club, ‘adopting’ a special needs class (the Bunnies) in another school. Here they are shown on a picnic the Allstars organised for the Bunnies

The third tape, the recording of an 8th March Show, I will not try to insert here as it is almost 1 hour long and only a small part towards the end is a performance for which I was responsible. This performance is by a special needs class in School No. 11 which became ‘The bunnies’ and incorporated the song ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’. They did their own email project with a special needs class in the USA and were ‘adopted’ by the Leo Club formed by some of the students at School No.1. When I get back to UK and on my Mac I should be able to extract the relevant part and do a post about that.

The efficient Romanian

I’ve been able to post the recordings on Youtube, and so hopefully within this post (I’ve never attempted such a thing before – it seems to be working). I cannot cut out the ‘rubbish’ at the start of each till, again, I get onto the Mac at home but after a few seconds the actual film should appear.

I’ve been able to do this only due to the great service from one Romanian young man. Following a phone call he collected the VHS tapes Monday lunchtime, transferred to DVDs and delivered them early Tuesday. The cost? About 1/25th of the cost of transferring the one tape of our wedding (also VHS) to DVD in the UK.

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Snowman in the bedroom! Courtesy of Petronela – with mărțișor

Today, according to Romanian tradition, is the first day of Spring, though looking out of the window here it’s not spring-like. A thick blanket of snow (for here 10cm or more is ‘thick’ though in other parts of Yorkshire there is far more and roads are closed) covers everything, hundreds of schools are closed (including the primary and the high school in our village). Nevertheless we will celebrate the arrival of Spring in the Romanian way (see last year’s post,  when it was a bright sunny day).

‘Dragobete’ spoons carved in the Bucovina, Romania

Today, 24 February, is the ‘day the birds are betrothed‘ – the most beautiful, for me, of the traditions associated with this special day in Romania. It’s called ‘Dragobete‘.

As regular followers of this blog will know I do not ‘celebrate’ St Valentine’s Day which has just become a massive commercial event which, like Halloween, has displaced the true tradition in many western countries. Dragobete has not yet become tainted in the same way; rather it is just forgotten in much of the country and by many Romanians, but still celebrated in some country districts, particularly in areas where tradition is best retained, like the Bucovina and Marămureș.

Were I a young, unattached, young man I might be chasing my love through the forest and, if she returned my love, she’d allow me to catch her and give her a kiss. Before this we would have been, with other young people, collecting together the first flowers of spring – perhaps snowdrops pushing their way through the snow.

According to Romanian myth Dragobete was the son of Baba Dochia, but more of that on 1 March, when the return of Spring is more celebrated in itself.

The spoons, carved in the Bucovina (more precisely near or in the small town of Rădăuți) celebrate Dragobete; some carved by Călin Danila, others by Viorel Marian, I’ve had them for about 20 years. They are rather like Welsh love spoons.