Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Star......A Holy Star.....A Herald Of The Birth Of Our Lord

Star Carolers

Starting on Christmas Day, the village children begin caroling with The Star... a richly decorated hand made banner to let the world know A Child Is Born!
Bucovina Star Carolers

Tradition dictates it continues for days until January 6 the day of The Epiphany.
The Star of Bethlehem only appears in the Nativity story of the Gospel of Matthew.
Old Bucharest Star Carolers

The rituals are inspired by the star that guided the three wise men to the manger where they announced the birth of Jesus, worshiped Him and gave Him gifts. Many Christians see the star as a miraculous sign to mark the blessed event.

Suceava Carolers

Songs about the Star have transcended through time from different sources, some from the Orthodox Byzantine Church, some from the Latin Catholic Church literature, some from the Calvinist rite and many from the local folk traditions.

Moldova Star Carolers

Folk Group Paunita

Small choral groups of stellar carolers visit the homes of the neighbors during the days of Christmas, singing religious songs about the birth of Jesus..."Star Above is Shining", " In the town of Bethlehem" or "Three Magi from the East" and joyfully blessing them and their kin.

Maramures Sledding  
At the end of the day there is always time for some winter fun....

Friday, December 26, 2014

Three Days of Christmas...Traditional Feast Dishes


                                      Christ Is Born!   Glorify Him!

Tradition in Romania requires three days of Christmas celebration...what joy!

Celebration of faith, food and rituals that transcends centuries with variations of ingredients and details from region to region.
Maramures Carolers

Two of my favored areas of the country, Maramures and Ardeal are part of Transylvania, yet each with distinct nuances of flavors, scents and visual delights.

One common denominator is the pork meat and traditional smoked products following the traditional pig sacrifice on December 20th, on St.Ignatius day.  

St. Ignatius

In Maramures, the Christmas celebration feast includes smoked sausages and cured meats, roasts and freshly baked round breads, Colaci, sour soups and the traditional spirit of pear Palinca.   
Pear Palinca

Traditional Smoked Meats

Sweet Nut Roll

Ardeal is a region of Transylvania where local ingredients are part of ancient recipes...Christmas feasts must include a variety of soups such as Ardeal Sour Ciorba with Tarragon, Pork Meatball Soup, Smoked Meat Soup.

Smoked Meat Soup

Ardeal Sour Ciorba Tarragon
Pork Meatball Soup

Roast Pork

The pork roast is served with a spinach and sorrel sauce, sorrel being  a favorite herb of Ardeal.
Spinach and Sorrel Sauce

Sweet round braided breads abound as well as stuffed cabbage rolls with sauerkraut.
Sweet Round Bread Colac

Sauerkraut Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Polenta

The spirit of the region is made out of luscious plums, fruit-steeped brandy called Țuică.

Transylvanian Plums

Tzuica de Prune

Carolers are going house to house in every village to share the news...Merry Christmas!
Village Carolers

Romanian Folk Carols

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Celebrate! Celebrate on December 6 St. Nicholas... Protector of Children and Sailors

Romanian Icon Painted on Glass

Each visit to Bucharest I find myself standing in front of magnificent structures nestled in unexpected corners of the vibrant city. This time two churches come to mind that bear the St. Nicholas name…different in architecture and existence.
St. Nicholas Russian Church, Bucharest Romania

One Russian, located in central Bucharest, by University Square also known as “Students Church”, built in 1905 with funds from Emperor Nicholas II.
Biserica Kretzulescu, Bucharest

Kretzulescu Church Interior, Bucharest

The other, Kretzulescu Church in Romanian Renaissance Brancovenesque Architecture, built in 1720, witness to three centuries of Romanian history including the 1989 Revolution when it protected the revolutionaries fighting against Communism.

Several bullet holes are marking the façade with the eternal memory of the sacrifice.
Corneliu Coposu Bust Sculpture by Romanian Sculptor Mihai Buculei

As Orthodox Christians we venerate St. Nicholas on this day of December 6, each year with love, joy and ancient rituals.
St. Nicholas With His White Horse

In Romanian traditions, St. Nicholas at times appears with a white horse, symbolizing the first snow falling in December and is admired and venerated for his many miracles…. guards the sun who tries to flee past him to the realms of the north and leave the world without light and heat, stomps the devil, controls the waters as the patron of sailors saving them from drowning, protects soldiers in war, so they call upon him during battles, helps widows, orphans and poor girls without dowry who want to marry.
Orthodox Icon of St. Nicholas The Wonderworker
 The Miracles of Saint Nicholas are many and well known, that is why he was chosen as the protector of children, and sailors, the bakers, the victims of the injustice of the judiciary system.
St. Nicholas Icon Sailor Miracle Saviour

Fra Angelico St. Nicholas Painting

The night before December 6, children in Romania set their shoes and boots by the door, shined and cleaned waiting for the visit of St. Nicholas during the night…if they were good, the shoes would be filled with gifts the next morning.
Apple Branches

Some may also find a small twig from an apple tree, a more physical reminder to be good. The branches are set in water afterwards to blossom in the warmth of the home, symbol of forgiveness and love.

Traditional Romanian Table Setting
The families throughout Romania, gather on this day to celebrate with traditional meals.
Traditional Paltinis, Sibiu Appetizer Platter

Wild Mushroom Soup
 The family feast includes traditional Romanian dishes, spirits and wine with regional specific ingredients and flavors.

Grilled Meat and Polenta Bulz

Ardeal Bread

Palinca Distillery Production
I learned the tradition of plum brandy production of tuica, palinca as it is called in other regions of Romania from my Transylvanian grandfather Ilie, in Saliste, Sibiu.

The art of spirit making has been cherished and improved from generation to generation. 
Plum Palinca Camara Zanelor
                      Camara Zanelor Palinca Oas, Romania

Bucovina Pastry

Transylvanian Side of Pork Roasted on The Open Fire

Tochitura Polenta and Egg

Traditional Transylvanian Foods
Pofta Buna!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Art in the Afternoon…..Bucharest, The Cotroceni National Museum

The Cotroceni National Museum Palace

Every year I try to make the most of my trips to Romania and the unique blend of traditions, art and culture, food and places to enjoy it, people to meet.
Monastery Cotroceni Iconostasis 

This October it was no different…a tapestry of rural delights, vineyards, forests and historic towns woven in a rich autumn palette.
Poiana Brasov Autumn
The choice for one afternoon was art…art in Bucharest. I had few hours set aside to dive deep in the one place I had not visited in a couple of years…The Cotroceni National Museum.

Palace Interior
Three centuries of history embrace the structures and land vibrations of the museum, all interwoven with politics, historical facts, religious and cultural aspects.

It started with the founder, Prince Serban Cantacuzino who ruled between 1678-1688 and continued through the times with the imprint of various dignitaries and a long list of personalities.
Prince Serban Cantacuzino
My interest….interiors, architecture and decorative arts, ready for a visual feast.

Palace Salon

Queen Marie's Bedroom

Cotroceni Norwegian Salon

Cotroceni German Dining Room

King Ferdinand's Library

Cotroceni Salon Oriental

Bronze Vessel

Art Nouveau Brass Covered Vessel

Since this is also the official headquarter and residence of the President of Romania, I shall stroll through the gorgeous grounds….on my way out hoping to say Buna Ziua!