In a community, people have similar ways to dress, to feed, to celebrate events – giving substance to all this customs and traditions. In addition to this customs and traditions related to the most important moments in the life of any human being (birth, marriage, death), we want to show you the ones specific to Uricani area.
Habits according to the seasons of the year
There is no other season in the Jiu Valley as expected as the spring. After the long winter months, people enjoy the first signs of warmth, preparing themselves for the most important holiday of Christianity – Easter.
SÂMŢI (40 Martyrs)
It is celebrated on the 9th of March, being the last of the so-called Days of the Old Winter. It is time for the cold season to make room for the spring. At dawn, the housewives go out without washing their faces, cleaning the yard, gathering all of the garbage and putting it in the fire. There is the belief that, from this day on, all the animals come to life, among them being also those who can cause shortcomings in the household. Because of that, the housewives prepared a piece of fabric that they lighted in the fire in the yard fuming with it the house walls, surrounding also the property by the fence. In this way, they thought that they could avoid the beasts (snakes or other animals). The practice of this ritual was meant to be a guarantee for the annihilation of the evil forces. Could it be the symbol of the sacred fire that was practiced by our ancestors, the Daco-Romans?
THE CRY IN THE HOLY THURSDAY
At Uricani, as in all the villages in the north and the south of the Southern Carpathians, there was the custom of “crying over the village. For example, in the Mailat area of Uricani, in the evening before the Thursday of the Easter, a group of young boys divided into two bands. Some of them climbed the hill to Borzi, in the north, and the others crossed the Jiu river and sat on place named the Hill of Borc. Each band had to procure firewood. When the stars appeared on the sky, they lighted the fire. Since then, they began to shout at each other certain information about some reprehensible facts that occurred in the community during that year. What could not be said in the daylight, it was heard by the villagers at nightfall, and those who felt guilty, tried to solve their issues. So, the community dispraise was the most cruel judge. Unfortunately, today this custom seems to have been forgotten.
The Easter (Pesach in Hebrew) in the current practice of the Christian religion, including the Orthodox one, is the greatest celebration of the Resurrection day. This celebration is practiced from the second century AD.
The date is established on the first Sunday of the full moon after the vernal equinox.
The preparations for the Easter have always been a moment of joy for all members of the community, considering their economic and cultural resources. They always tried to maintain a certain level as close to the rules governing the organization of this great celebration as possible. The Easter Days had to find peace in mind and order in the household.
On the first day of Easter, the children replaced their parents at cleaning and feeding the cattle so that they can go to church. The adults attended the religious service and after that they sanctified the food that they’ve brought in beautifully decorated bags. In all of the three mornings of this great celebration, the Resurrection, the tradition says that all of the members of the family should eat three tablespoons of sanctified prosphoron with wine offered by the oldest member of the family.
The person receiving it, said: “Christ has risen!” and the one serving replied: “Indeed he has.”
There was always the custom to visit the relatives these days, sitting together at the table and having fun with the hosts. They said jokes, talked about old memories and made plans for the future agricultural works. On the second day of Easter, the young people went to church and after the religious service, they participated to the egg cracking competitions. The winner could praise with his bag full of trophies (cracked red eggs). On this day took place another competition called “The race for the prosphoron” (the prosphoron is a small bread round-shaped or cross-shaped, made of yeast dough, from which is prepared the bite at the Communion). There were two teams of boys, each team had two members: the first team had to eat the prosphoron and the other team had to run. In order to win, the runners had to get next to their opponents before they finished eating the prosphoron. Otherwise those who “feasted” won. In the afternoon, in the progadia (a church yard used as a cemetery) of Mailat took place the Nedeia (from Slavonic Nedelja – Sunday). Nedeia is a popular party, of pastoral origins, usually held during a holiday or a saint patron. Nedeia gathered people from neighboring villages and even relatives from other parts of the country.
The Gherman is the patron of animals and insects, and can influence the development of the sown fields and the abundance of the lands. Is is celebrated on May 12 after all the fields have been sown. In this day it is forbidden to work the land because the crop will be destroyed by the worms that live in it. Although science has advanced, discovering all sorts of remedies that might help with the removal of these pests of agriculture, the tradition tells us that we must act according to the ancestral beliefs.
THE MEASUREMENT OF THE SHEEP
In the Jiu Valley area the ancestral tradition of sheep measurement is held with honor – so in mid-May at the sheep-holds, the sheep are being milked and the amount of milk produced is being measured. After the measurement of the milk, the quantity of cheese that will go to each herd owner is being established. If there are rams and barren sheep, these animals will be moved away on a mountain close by in order to not be mixed with the dairy sheep. The event involves the whole community in question – the farmers, the children, the youth, the elderly, the mayor and the priest (who sanctifies the herds and sheep holds). After this process is over, people feast on some cheese and roast lamb, cheese cakes and drink –ţuica from the local production.
In the popular mythology, certain taboos inherited from the ancestral traditions, tried to explain the phenomenon that manifests in nature. Such phenomenon is that of the Burguni. They are like evil spirits that bring in the period 1 to 10 of June the cold and the frost that can damage the crops of beans, corn, potatoes, etc. One cannot fight them.
They are the result of a state of mind or they come as a punishment for some reprehensible facts committed by the owner of the said land.
In the evening of June 23, the girls picked from the gardens or meadows, daisies, placing them in the cracks of the wood from which the house was built, naming each flower with the name of each family member.
The second day (June 24, Sânziene), the one from the family whose flower was more withered, was believed to die first. This custom no longer maintains.
FOCA (THE SEAL)
The third day after the christian holiday of St. Elijah, on July 23, is celebrated Foca. The rule is not to work mostly the hay, because “there was the danger of fire.”
Living in nature, people have tried to understand it and use its generous resources. People have learned and have cultivated the respect for the animals that are living in the wild and that fact that they can influence life in one way or another.
The bear, being considered a noble animal, because of his particular behavior compared to other wildlife animals, was venerated and at the same time considered an evil creature which could punish people if they “would upset him.”
More or less willingly, but surely a product of tradition, the celebration of the Bear Day on the 1 of August was preserved in the mythology of Uricani. If someone is working on this day, surely – says the custom of this place – all of the cattle, and the plum tree orchards will be destroyed by the one that was not given “respect”.
THE FAIR FROM PUI
The nearest fair for the people in Uricani (place specially arranged in a town/a village, where they sell and buy cattle, grain, food, vegetables, etc.) was the country fair from Pui, organized on the 14 October. People were going there to sell their animals (cows, sheep, horses) in order to obtain the necessary financial resources for the household or because they did not want or could not sustain them during the winter. On that day, they left home early in the morning with the cattle, to reach the fair as soon as possible. Those who managed to sell their animals bought clothes, shoes and other products. They did not forget about the “little fair” – a gingerbread in various shapes and colors that the children at home were expecting impatiently. This fair from Pui represented for the farmers an opportunity to demonstrate their wealth, their economical power in relation with the other members of the community.
Before the appearance of carbon, the animals sold at the fair were the main source of income for the inhabitants of Uricani.
Pizereu, piţereu or piţărău are some of the names given to the carol singers on Christmas Eve.
The group of piţărăi consisted of all the children that “could walk”, until the age of 13-14 or even older (newlyweds). The youngest came accompanied by their grandparents who would take them by the hand. Two of the older boys were captains and wore one bat each to defend the group from the dogs and to establish a corridor through which the piţărăi could receive in good order the gifts from the host.
These gifts consisted of apples, pears, nuts collected especially for them from each tree by farmer, believing that by “giving them to piţărăi” the crop will be richer the following year. Those who had no fruit gave pastry, biscuits or sweets.
The morning of Christmas Eve, before dawn, the piţărăi from the area gathered at the home of Andrioni (family) living at the confluence of Bulzu river with Jiu.
After all gathered, they entered the yard in front of the house. The households were sitting in order, in front of the gate, with bags in hands. The carol singers exited the courtyard to the corridor created by the bats of the two captains, each receiving the gift that he gently placed in his bag. It was very important that each piţărău received only one gift, repeating the gift was considered an evil sign for that household. From here the procession of piţărăi followed a very well established route shouting in chorus: “Piţărăii are coming! Piţărăii, are coming! “, passing to all the households located to the east, then to the west and ended in the evening at the Staici (family).
Each piţărău, although tired and cold, rushed home, glad to have his bag full of the gifts he received. The youngest ran fearing to be cached by the “blojii” (pastors) who escorted the Crai while caroling. In the recent years, however, the children crystalline cry “Piţărăii are coming! Piţărăii, are coming! ” is not heard anymore, the practice has not been preserved, but it is still alive in the Eastern Jiu Valley – in Petrosani and Petrila.
THE CRAI (THE KINGS)
By nightfall, on the evening of Christmas Eve, the Kings arrive. Dressed in national costumes specific to the area, knocking on the doors, announcing the Nativity. Normally, these groups have the following composition: Herod (captain of the Kings), the Angel (the one who announces the Nativity), Valvezar, or Melfi, Gaspar, the Soldier and Blojii (shepherds or the brunduşi). The latter are dressed in coats made from sheep fur turned upside down, decorated with red and blue tassels and bells, caring wooden bats in their hands.
With these they defend from the dogs, but this are used especially to hit the floors, in order to maintain the rhythm of the songs and to banish the evil spirits from the households. A character as funny for the adults as it is frightening for children is “the Pope” whose clothes are imitating the robe of a priest, having a large cross of iron in his hand. The Kings present carols specific to the local folklore fighting with swords and biblical scenes from the birth moment of Jesus Christ. The hosts receive them in their homes, listening to them and then they feast them, each one trying hard to keep up with the expectations in this period. They serve pastry, cakes and drinks. The kings are visiting in particular the households where there are girls, where they are welcomed with excitement and anticipation. They end their carols at church on Christmas Day, after the Divine Liturgy. Every year, new generations of young people betake the carols that their parents and grandparents sang and with the snowflakes and the frost, they complete the decor of winter’s “dreamy evening.”
This custom usually manages to gather in one place those who formerly were part of the Kings teams, now working abroad. At Christmas, they return home and join the youngest, contributing to maintain this ancient tradition.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
The popular mythology suggests the idea that, on the eve of the New Year, the heavens open. Then, the simple mortals can find out their future, using some elements from the popular tradition.
“Învârjelatul” was a custom practiced at Uricani in the New Year’s Eve. The name comes from Vergel (virgell – Latin for party). On the evening of New Year people were trying through all kind of magic means to find out the future for those present with the help of some hidden objects under the plates.
The girls from the neighbors, ready to be married, gathered at a house where a grandmother was willing to participate in this game of luck. The ritual involved some symbolic objects hidden under five plates: a comb, a coal, a piece of cheese, a dime, a wedding ring. The girls were taken out from the room where the game took place,
while the old woman placed the objects under the pltes, in an order only she knew. The girls were called in, being urged to lift each one a plate. The objects discovered had each one a signification. The one who found the coal was meant to marry a black man. The cheese symbolized a spouse with many sheep, the comb meant that the man would have big teeth. The coin found under the plate meant that the man would be rich and the wedding ring symbolized that the boy would be beautiful and well made. The game was repeated three times for each girl to be sure on the qualities of their future husband.
If this magic did not convince all the girls, they could try a new test and that was the counting of the piles. At 12 pm, in the night of the New Year, the girls went out, each with a different color ribbon in hand.
By approaching the fence they counted 10 piles, in descending order, from 10 to 1. The pile that represented the first number was wrapped with the ribbon that the girl had. In the morning, at the crack of dawn, each girl went out to see the pile that she marked and thus she knew how her future husband will be.
Such habits no longer present interest today.
The traditions and customs presented here try to complement the history of the inhabitants of Uricani with visual images described using the word about an archetypal world that has managed to maintain a set of social rules, handed down from generation to generation.
In Uricani has existed and still exists a well organized community with social rules established on the basis of pre-Christian beliefs, which had a permanent concept of maintenance and conservation of the Old Order of the people as a way of defining itself.
NEDEIA FROM CÂMPU LUI NEAG
Nedeia of the Triptych (from Cȃmpu lui Neag), although it is a celebration with songs and good cheer, a memorial and a commemoration that arises on this occasion before the Triptych (and the monument itself ), reminds us actually of an extremely sad moment in the local history.
It is an evocation of the tragedy that happened more than three decades ago when the tradition of Nedeia on Thomas’s Sunday was roughly interrupted when the bulldozers razed from the face of the earth not only the beautiful settlements of the momârlani and the graves of the ancestors, but also the culture, religion and history of this villagers. In this sad times and especially under the burden of the destruction caused by the rush for coal, the line of old customs was interrupted, the celebration of Nedeia at the Câmpu lui Neag on Thomas’s Sunday ceased to take place. With the efforts of local people and local authorities, the celebration of Nedeia has returned, developing each year. After the divine service follows a feast pigmented by artistic moments and recitals of invited artists, dance groups and local bands. The event joys the souls of the local people and their guests.
THE DAY OF THE HEROES
“Christ has risen!” is the greeting that is on the lips of every Christian Orthodox believer on the day of the Ascension.
This day was established by the Orthodox Church as the Day of the Heroes.
At Uricani this celebration has gained a special importance due to the fact that the church, in which court this event is celebrated, has the saint patron of the “Ascension”. Because of this, at the celebration participate hundreds of locals every year, who after the divine service conducted by the priests, attend to the ceremony of laying flower wreaths and to the artistic program prepared by the school students from the city.
Laying the flower wreaths occurs at the monument erected in the honor of the memory of those who died in the battle for defending our country, near the church.
The artistic program prepared and presented by children offers a special meaning to this holiday and it is attended each year by the veterans of the Second World War .
NEDEIA ON THE MOUNTAIN TULIŞA
Since 2006 both local people and the authorities of the Valley of Brazi decided to honor through a rural celebration the fallen heroes in the battle against the Austro-Hungarian resistance, on the Mount Tulişa.
The event is intended as a remembrance for the hundreds of heroes that have fallen here, which for nearly a century, all have been forgotten. Nedeia takes place on 20 July at an altitude of 1780 m, at the foot of Retezat – in the Valley of Brazi. The locals climb on a really difficult mountain road for almost 10 km, from DN66A, right at 8 Mine Shaft to the place where a hundred years ago was the battle field. Here, after the moment of commemoration, a popular music spectacle is usually held to which are invited renowned local artists and from all over of the country.
THE DAYS OF THE CITY URICANI
For several years the second half of August is another occasion for the spectacle and sport lovers in the Jiu Valley, a encounter with the special atmosphere of “The days of Uricani”. For this event (held on three days 19, 20, 21 August), local authorities conceive some beautiful cultural and artistic programs, sports and music for all kind of tastes.
The House of Culture Uricani becomes “the stage” where all he local children can support artistic performances along with the local folk and ethno bands or enjoy competitions of chess, backgammon and the prizes awarding for all the sports competitions.
For the literature lovers, the foyer and the meeting room at the City Hall Uricani hosts book launches with the extraordinary participation of Romanian successful writers.
On the stage in the open air are performing beloved artists and famous folk bands, there are all kinds of folkloric music and dance spectacles, modern rock, pop, dance music shows. The sports fields at the School no. 2 and at the “Retezat” High-school host competitions of table tennis, foot tennis, football championships – were the local teams from the districts of Uricani participate.
This three-day celebration end with a show with lasers and fireworks.