Romanian culture has many different arts and crafts that only they traditionally do. Some of the arts may overlap to other countries but most are only similar. This is due to the countries on the Balkan Peninsula, traditions, patterns and trademarks will over time swapped hands and been something that was once unique to one place have now become a common tradition or practice within others. There are still certain traditions and crafts that only the Romanians will practice.
The most well known and prominent of the arts in Romanian culture are the painted eggs. They are especially prominent in the Easter period. The tradition of painting hallowed out eggs is an integral part of the festival of renewal. This craft would include women and children going into another’s home and spending the day talking and painting.
The intricate patterns created on the eggs are known to be secret languages known only to residents from the regions they were painted in. The oldest known patterns were created with aqua fortis (nitric acid) onto the red background. They are still very popular to find in shops and at street markets. There is a specially decorated eggs museum located in Vama, Bukovina that has collections of over 3000 exhibits from Romania and overseas.
In Bukovina, there is a popular belief that if the sanctified Easter egg lasted the year until next Easter without damage or cracks then it would protect the family for the year. The egg would be placed in a carton and stored and then this would start a collection. The eggs are created by dying the exterior with different colours and layers. You then use a wooden instrument called a stylus, this is a fine point pencil-like instrument which hot wax flows through. This then creates the raised pattern on the egg and can be used to create many variations of patterns.
Pottery is still mainly made with the traditional kick-wheels and simple finishing tools. The different shapes, sizes and colours produced to reflect the many different clays used and cultures in which they are produced. The different decorations and patterns used on the pottery would vary from strong geometrics to animals and humans and delicate florals.
The main areas producing pottery are Horezu in Oltenia, Miercurea-Ciuc and Corund in western Transylvania, Baia Mare near the northern border and Radauti and Marginea in Moldavia. Though there are approximately 30 pottery centres throughout the country, each selling its own distinctive style.
Wood carving was used on many different objects within life, there was also many reasons and symbolism behind the carvings. Hand carved objects that were decorated in much more complex patterns held much more meaning than for pure decorative meaning. The carvings would display such things as wolf teeth to guard of evil spirits, flowers, twisted rope, moons and stars. These each held a meaning of symbolism and superstitions.
These meanings and carvings would show up on furniture, ladles, keepsake chests, walking sticks and spoons, some were even embellished with paint. In the area of Maramures, this would be the area to see such artworks, they homes would be carved in elaborate carvings, with wooden gates and even fences were intricately carved. Historically, the family’s status was displayed on a wooden gate leading to the home, the more elaborate the important the family. There is a place to visit to see the wonderful carvings The “Merry Cemetery” of Sapanta is in this region, open all year long, at all times.
Textiles – Embroidery
Embroidery is used on many different items, mostly anything of cloth can be decorated with embroidery. The Romanians have used weaving and embroidery to create everything from clothes to bed linen and ceremonial traditions. There is still a part of the brides ‘Dowry’ called a Tolic, this is an embroidered piece of cloth worn over the horse for those who ride from house to house delivering wedding invitations.
The embroidery used on the folk costumes are mainly used for ceremonial occasions such as weddings and for holidays. These garments will follow a uniformed pattern and will serve as a secret language to the people of the district/ region.
The region of Sibiu uses the colours of black and white motifs, reflecting its Saxon heritage on their ceremonial clothing whereas southern regions of Arges, Muscel, Dimbovita and Prahova use red, black maroon, yellow, gold, and silver threads, that reflect the influences of the Ottoman Empire. The region of Buzau used terra cotta, Oas uses green, Moldavia uses orange threads and Voronet blue made famous by the use by the monastery with the same name.
Many of the women learn this skill from a young age and carry on practising this skill until old age. Many traditionally will use looms that are still commonplace in many homes. These women will have also produced their own yarns and threads from the small gathering of sheep they own kept in a small courtyard. Many of the older generations still make their own yarn while the younger generations will source their materials elsewhere.
Rugs like in Bulgaria have their own category as they are made with such a high level of intricacy. The rugs reflect the area of origin that they are made, many have distinctive patterns and themes that are obvious to a certain region or area. Today to weave the rugs they use a traditional vegetable-dyed yarn with a more commercial aniline-dyed yarn to create vibrant accents mixed with traditional patterns and colours. Rugs mainly made in Oltenia reflect patterns that incorporate nature such as birds, flowers and trees.
The rugs made in the region of Moldavia are made with a pattern that reflects trees with small rows delicately weaved like small branches to create the tree of life. Rugs made in the region of Maramures are made up of geometric shapes to reflect those from Turkey and Caucasian mountains.
Masks were used for folk festivals held only in Maramures and Moldavia. These are typically made from hides of sheep, goats and cows. The masks are traditionally decorated with feathers, pompoms, straw and animal horns. The masks are mostly worn to welcome in the New Year throughout a couple of weeks in December and January.
I would love to hear if you ever visited Romania and what you loved about it, Let me know in the comments below and be sure to check out my recipes and how to guides.