Last Updated: 27th March 2022
Romania is a very religious country, with Christianity making up the majority percentage of faith within the country, with that being mostly made up of Romanian Orthodox Christianity.
The view taken by Romanian Orthodox Christians on death is taking seriously because of their religious beliefs. Those following this faith see death as an important step in order to reach the afterlife which is believed to be of a superior place to life on earth.
It is because of their faith in the afterlife that Romanian Orthodox Christians often celebrate funeral services in a more joyful way, incorporating their folk traditions, than their Orthodox counterparts in which funeral services may be far more solemn affairs.
The folk traditions in Romania follow through to their funerals, which came about before Christianity was established in the country. Romanian funeral ceremonies might include people in attendance singing and playing games whilst wearing costumes and masks and although they might be less flamboyant than they once were, these traditional folk rituals are still present.
If a person is known to be dying in Romania, a candle is placed at their head so that they are able to see their way when journeying into the afterlife. Similarly, in order to facilitate an easy passage into the afterlife for the deceased, any doors within the house they die are left unlocked.
Mirrors are covered in black cloth so the deceased person’s spirit is not left to get lost within them and then haunt the people left in the house after their departure.
It is significant that folklore traditions are followed and respected because the Romanians believe they should do as much as they can to help their deceased loved ones get to heaven as easily as possible.
They might feel that if these, and many more rituals and traditions upon a death taking place in Romania, are not completed it could lead to the deceased person becoming restless and bother the living, and whilst the myths of vampires and zombies might have originated in Romania, exhumations do take place if a person believes a deceased person hasn’t been fully laid to rest.
The family of the deceased might choose to have a night watch, which forms the wake, for their deceased loved one, in which they stay awake and watch over the body of the deceased person in order to protect them from evil spirits.
The watch, called a priveghi’ can last for three days, at which prayers are read out by a priest. Once the ‘watch’ is complete, the deceased person is taken to the cemetery in an open coffin within a special car that has to stop seven times on the way, signifying the stops that Jesus made to Calvary. Any water along the journey requires crossing whilst journeying to the cemetery must be covered in cloth so that the reflection of the deceased is prevented, otherwise, the deceased person’s spirit may get ‘stuck’ in this world and haunt it.
There is a significant emphasis placed on respect when someone passes away in Romania because people believe that if a deceased person’s final arrangements and funeral are not carried out correctly, in a dignified and respectful way, the deceased person will return after their death to haunt their family and wider community.
It is a deep belief of Romanian Orthodox Christianity that a person who has died has a forty day journey towards the afterlife, during which they are judged by God who leads them to their next place of being to the afterlife. The deceased are often referred to as a ‘pure and white traveller’ during this phase.
Romanian death traditions include placing coins in the deceased person’s hand or giving them a comb or needle and thread so they have the ability to pay their way along their journey to the afterlife and are fully prepared.
Professional mourners called ‘bocitoare’ in Romania had a purpose to ‘wail’ so that evil spirits were kept away, recognising the person who had passed away was worthy of attention and required respect.
When it comes to funeral rituals, the Romanians have particular and specific thoughts on this.
It is deemed vital the body of the deceased person enters the church first, before anyone else, before the funeral starts and is placed in the middle of the church.
In some Romanian Orthodox Christian churches, towels might be found to be hanging from the crosses that appear in a church or tied around the pallbearers’ arms. When attending a Romanian Orthodox Christian funeral service, male mourners may be given a handkerchief as a ‘homage’ which is expected to be kept and taken home after the funeral service. A candle may also be given to mourners entering the funeral service venue.
The Romanian funeral ceremony is likely to have many ‘crowns’ play a part in it, with wreaths of flowers being brought to the funeral service by mourners, who then place them near the coffin by way of decoration. Once the funeral ceremony has finished, a group of pre-selected mourners collect the flowery crowns from close to the coffin and lead the remaining congregation out of the church with the deceased’s coffin or casket very close behind.
The flower wreaths or crowns are placed on top of the coffin of the deceased person before they are lowered into the ground during the burial. Once the burial ceremony has taken place, a table is usually set up beside the grave and wine and traditional Romanian foods are offered to all of the mourners in attendance.
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