In the last week we have had three celebrations out here; one folksy, one political, one religious. Romanians don't seem to need an excuse to celebrate something.
Firstly there was Mărțișor which is for the beginning of Spring on the first day of March, though it spread out a lot longer than one day. It is a time for the exchange of little trinkets and tokens of affection and each is given with some red and white braided cord. I asked a friend why red and white and I just got a somewhat enigmatic reply of "blood and snow". Traditionally red is the colour of spring out here and that will take some getting used to. Still, I am now the proud owner of some cord and it is wrapped around the Uffington White Horse brooch that is on the collar of my jacket (honorary Wessex girl that I am). It will stay there till the end of March, though I may have discarded the jacket by then, the weather has suddenly warmed up. Mărțișor is cheap, fun and has no pretensions to be anything than what it is: there is no religious or political significance.
Secondly, Thursday gave us International Women's day. This unsettled me greatly. Nobody makes a fuss over it much in the UK. It is massive out here. It feels horribly leftist. Elsewhere in Europe, this was an excuse to raise womens' issues and bang the feminist drum about one thing or another. Here men just give you flowers! In itself this is great because it defeats the aims of the odious occasion, and is yet another reason why I love this country. However, it left me for the first time out here feeling like a complete alien. I was unable to communicate my dislike of the whole thing and nobody could understand my edgyness and barely concealed bad temper. My apartment is decked out like a florists and the smell of hyacinths is overpowering. I see nothing to celebrate here, it is something utterly meaningless to me.
Thirdly, Friday was the feast of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste. I knew it was happening because I keep an Orthodox calendar on my wall, it is the best way to make sure I don't miss the childrens' saints name days. Where I work is aggressively secular, but the religious feasts consistently slip though. It is a major feast out here. 40 martyrs, 40 days of lent. The strict fasting regulations are relaxed a little and the children had brought in lovely warm, greasy, sugary buns to eat at the beginning of the day. There was some astonishment from them that I knew what it was all about, but that is no bad thing. It is a shame it has slipped off the Roman calendar. St Frances of Rome died on that day so the Tridentine calendar shifted the martyrs to the following day. The Novus Ordo returned them to the same day as the East, but the feast has been downgraded and has virtually disappeared. Such a sight as children inviting each other to share some sweets because it was a Saints' day would be almost unheard of in the UK........ it shouldn't be. Religious celebrations need to be reclaimed and need to have a presence in an increasingly secular world.