Romanian Autumn Traditions
In Romania autumn is a season that can be expressed in one word: wealth.
As one travels through Romania can see beautiful hay stacks spread over the hills, fruit trees are beautiful coloured, fields are are covered with corn, vineyards are burden with the essence of future to be wine: grapes. Up, on the top of the hills, shepherds bring their flocks in the village, bringing their cheese goodies
Having all these, Romanian invite the entire community and guests from all over to enjoy all the goodies yield over the year and transformed into tasty food: Harvest day and Cheese and Pastrami Festival.
Cheese and Pastrami Festival
It is translated simply, in English,"Cheese and Pastrami Festival", but the Romanian name is more profound than that. In Romanian the festival is named "Ravasitul oilor" and if we were to translate by word, it means "scattering the sheep herd". This custom gathers millenniums of transhumance on Romanian territory. It is true, during the festival participants are enchanted with all cheese goodies, Romanian "bulz" and all sorts of pastrami and name is absolutely suitable for all it happens.
In fact,”scattering the sheep” is an annual cycle in Romanian shepherd’s life. In the spring, the shepherds from low-regions (plains) take the sheep in the mountains to feed them better, cross long distances up to the core of the hills and to the highest alps, for returning during autumn when the grazing turns into hay. This is the moment of “scattering”, this is the moment the shepherd turn back to their villages.
Transhumance (herding the sheep during summers high in the mountains and returning in the autumn to the home villages), has been continuously practiced since Dacien times. This motif of transhumance was placed into rhymes by anonymous creators over and over in Romanian folklore that our nation ground and existence seems to be dissolutely connected with the rhythm of transhumance, the ups and downs of the hills, the ups and down confronting evil or hardship of nature and wild.
Bringing back the flock to the village is a moment of glory for shepherds who travel through the mountains summer long and entire community celebrates their return. They, in their turn, bring the best samples of their tasty food, all sorts of cheese products and pastrami, as result and culmination of the work.
"Telemea" cheese is pure Romanian salty food, even if ressembles with other sorts of cheeses across the world. Bulz is also Romanian, a tasty ball of cheese covered in polenta. This simple meal has its origins in shepherds lives, who cooked it in deepness of the mountains as a sense of adaptation.
People dance on Romanian music and their joy pay a tribute for all the good food stuff they can enjoy every autumn.
Romania means Miorita
“Near a low foothill
At Heaven’s doorsill…”
Our ancestors in the national balad had the best description for Romania and the native land in connection with its people. These are the first two lines of our National Ballad named “Miorita”, the most representative piece of folklore in Romania. These two verses for which the translation does not entirely express the beauty of the original ballad, are the quintessence of our nation.
In brief, the ballad is about three shepherds coming from three different regions and meeting during transhumance, when the Southern-Moldavian and the Hungarian shepherds, jealous on the Moldavian’s wealthy flock, discussed about killing him. Miorita, one of the Moldavian’s sheeps, overhears this discussion and talks to his master about it, suggesting he should prepare for defending himself and the herd. Instead of trying to fight for his life and wealth, the Moldavian shepherd accepts this fate and prepares for it in a very particular way: he gives Miorita specific instructions about his funerals in the middle of the nature, near his flock, and about how to protect the loved ones, his mother and the sheeps, by rather letting them know that he married (again, in the middle of the nature) a beautiful girl and left everything for her.
“Miorita” is the essence of Romanian way of life: non-combat, love and care for the family, and, most of all, a deep lifelong communion with nature.
Every autumn, in villages of Romania a celebration of ground yields happens. The peasants, old and young, harvest all the fruits and vegetables they farmed over the year. The housewives prepare pickles, salted canned goods, tomato juice, jams and “zacusca” for the cold days of winter. After they picked the grapes and yield the corn a large food festival happens within the community and we are to say few words about Romanian's favourite goodies.
There will be the "must" the juice of fresh grapes, sweet and flavoured, the juice which is to be transformed into wine. Must goes very well with pastrami and salted cheese and, of course plenty of chestnuts.
Romanians love jams, wild berries and plum jams are first option. If first is more like a delicacy, the second is so Romanian that every housewife makes it every autumn. Topoloveni plum jam is internationally known for their recipes of jam made without a single spoon of sugar.
"Zacusca" is a Balkanic sort of stew, but Romanians have their special recipes and there is a must as once in life to travel to Romania and taste it! There are so many ways that Romanian love to combine their main ingredients that it is difficult to chose only one sort of it! Eggplant, mushrooms, beans and even fish zacusca stay there in a food festival invinting likerish passers by to taste it. By far, the most known remains eggplant zacusca.
Fruits and vegetables are piled up into a rich and spectacular show of abundance inviting the participants to the Harvest day festival to shop it all. There is a continuous to and from and all these happens on Romanian Folkloric tunes and dances.
Local specific for Harvest day across Romania
On a fixed day at the end of September - beginning of October, every community of small farmers across entire Romania, colour the public places with their harvest, vegetables, fruits and cereals, sign of their hard work. Every locality and has its specific celebration day as well as their specific goodies. The celebration usually takes place during Sundays for the joy of every villager. Products, from soil harvest like fruits and vegetable, to the homemade goodies, specific their area cover the stall of a fussy- giant and rich market. The population of village is happy and the community enjoys the celebration as sign of the thanksgiving for all the wealth God and soil has given to them.
As Dobrogea is the home of wine and vineyards, the must, t is the real catch of Harvest day. Fiddlers play songs of joy and every housewife brings her best zacusca made out of eggplants.
During the Harvest day in entire Muntenia (Old Wallahia) is like a colourful natural set, due to the various tints of cereals, fruits (apples, quinces and plums). Vegetables, from eggplants to simple potatoes, lie on every stall. The tuica(light brandy) from the harvest of the year is savoured for flavour, the must is delighted for sweetness while a snack of various types of cow cheese arises the appetite for joy. The ladies of the village bake pumpkins or even, better, pumpkin pies for the delight of the passers-by.
As you go up to the hilly Transylvania and further North in Maramures, plums are stars and so is palinca. Housewifes cook large portions of gulash or enchant the community with home made cakes, baked chestnuts. Of course they dance on traditional music.
In Bucovina apples, plums, quinces, grapes and nuts cover the stall of the markets. The must goes with salted nuts, while the housewives cook „sarmale” in small sizes, like a bite for the villagers around. Grapes, vegetables and of course tuica are stars of the party. As there cannot exist party without music, local orchestras and singers call people to dance.
The Saxons of Transylvania name this day either Erntefest or Harvest Festival and it takes place on first Sunday of October. The day starts with of thanksgiving for the harvest in a church service in the morning. The church is decorated with the harvest of the soil: corn, pumpkins, grapes, flowers, vegetables everything that means the richness of the soil.
Actually, roughly speaking, these two events celebrate Romanian's work and the country's abundance. There is much more happening during Cheese and Pastrami Festival and Harvests Days and one can sense the some of Romanian spirit only by attending them
Well, this is a short version of what really happens during autumn celebration.
If you really would love to see and taste, there is a single way to enjoy it: travel to Romania, mix with locals and get this Romanian autumn spirit!