EASTER TRADITIONS IN MOLDOVA

Let me tell you a bit about Easter traditions in Moldova. It’s one of the most significant holidays in our culture. The celebration consists of a series of beautiful rituals transmitted from parents to kids, from one generation to another. The blooming trees and the fresh green grass add magic and make the holiday even more enjoyable.

The date of the Orthodox Easter changes every year. It was established in 325, within the Ecumenical Synod of Nicaea that Easter date depends on two important natural events: the spring equinox, which takes place on March 21, and the following full moon. Because the full moon varies, the date of Easter is variable, but also in the fourth century it was established that Easter will always be celebrated on Sunday. There is no egg hunting for kids but we have our fun with red-colored eggs and Pasca that will never miss on our tables. By the way, on Easter morning there is a real egg-fight, when each member of the family chooses a red-colored egg and hits the egg of his neighbor at the table. The egg that resists all the fights without any cracks brings luck and power to the person it belongs.

The spiritual preparations for Easter begin with Great Lent, 40 days of abstinence and fasting. “The spiritual fast is designed to strengthen the inner life of the worshipper by weakening the attractions of the flesh and drawing him or her closer to God. In many Eastern churches, the Lenten fast is still observed with considerable strictness, meaning no meat is consumed, nor any animal products (eggs, milk, butter, cheese), and fish only on certain days.”

Easter traditions in Moldova start with fasting and continues throughout Holy Week. During the Easter Vigil services, Orthodox churches celebrate Saturday evening with a candlelight procession outside the church and the blessing of the food brought by the people to the church.

When I was a child my grandma Vera used to take me a few times to assist at Easter ceremonies and, honestly, it is one of the most magical moments of my childhood. To stay awake all night and to watch how hundreds of candles enlighten the night and people walk silently in a circle around the church saying a prayers – it had such a powerful impact on me as a child that even today, as an adult who’s not very closed to the church I remember that procession with thrills.

Denis Jardan Photography

Those who were not going to church on Easter night were strictly prohibited to eat anything before a member of the family would bring the sacred light and the food from the church. Early morning the kids were encouraged to wash their face with a metal coin and a red colored egg, saying a prayer about being strong as the coin and healthy as the egg.

Denis Jardan Photography

The first bites of the Easter morning had to be of the food coming from the church basket: pasca, red-colored eggs, wine, sheep chees, green onion and horse radish (considered to be a a powerful root against all the diseases). Only after having eaten the blessed food, we could start enjoying the other meals, made with so much dedication by the women of the family (hopefully the men are being more and more involved in the “typically women” house chords). Lamb is the traditional meat of the festivity. It is served with fresh spring vegetables and greens. Also we can have sarmale (stuffed vine and cabbage rolls), placinte (traditional pies stuffed with cottage chees, sour cabbage or potatoes) on Easter table.

Denis Jardan Photography

Normally, after 40 days of fasting, people hardly control the over eating, so the next days all the newscasts usually have the same news each year about how many people needed medical help because of the indigestions. But let’s get back to the traditional Easter food. This is Pasca and it replaces the bread on Easter tables. It is made a few day before Easter, on the Thursday before Easter and each woman takes it as personal challenge to make the most beautiful and tasty Pasca. For that you had to throw away all the negative thoughts, otherwise the doughs won’t rise as it should.

I’ll share with you the recipe of my mom’s Pasca. It comes from the North of the country.

Easter Bread Pasca
Lidia Barreiros Photography

AuthorNata AlbotCategoryDifficultyIntermediate

Pască [paskə] is our traditional bread for Easter similar to the Italian panetone, made with cheese stuffing. Our grandmothers and mothers bake Pasca on Thursday night, before Easter and won't let you eat it before it is blessed during the Easter ceremony. It is said that before making the dough for this traditional cheese bread one should close all the doors and windows, to avoid the cold air, otherwise the dough won’t rise. Also, one should pray before kneading the dough, and be lighthearted. The secret of a tasty Pască lies in a good soul, positive thoughts and a vigorous kneading.

Yields1 Serving
Prep Time1 hrCook Time4 hrsTotal Time5 hrs

 600 g flour 200 ml
 50 g yeast
 200 ml water or liquid whey
 100 ml sunflower oil
 700 g cottage cheese
 3 free-range eggs
 3 pinches salt & sugar

1

First, prepare the sourdough starter. Mix the yeast with one tablespoon of sugar, add 100 ml of liquid whey or warm water and whisk. Incorporate a few tablespoons of flour and whisk. Cover the starter with a towel and leave it in a
warm place until it doubles in volume.

2

Sift the flour over a bowl; add the sourdough starter, liquid whey or warm water seasoned with salt. Start kneading
the dough. Work well the dough until it gets to a medium consistency. For better results, gradually add some oil. Knead for at least 25-30 minutes.

3

When finished kneading, let the dough rise in a warm place. After the dough has doubled in volume, transfer to a wooden board. Take out 2/3 of the dough, knead and place it in a round baking tray, greased with oil.

4

Divide the rest of the dough in six equal parts and make three braids. Arrange one braid over the circumference of the baking tray and the other two in the shape of a cross over the bread. Fill the spaces between the braids with the
stuffing made of cottage cheese mixed with eggs and a pinch of salt. If the cheese is too soft add 2-3 tablespoons of semolina.

5

Grease the bread with egg yolk. Preheat the oven at 200 C and bake Pasca for 1,5-2h

Ingredients

 600 g flour 200 ml
 50 g yeast
 200 ml water or liquid whey
 100 ml sunflower oil
 700 g cottage cheese
 3 free-range eggs
 3 pinches salt & sugar

Directions

1

First, prepare the sourdough starter. Mix the yeast with one tablespoon of sugar, add 100 ml of liquid whey or warm water and whisk. Incorporate a few tablespoons of flour and whisk. Cover the starter with a towel and leave it in a
warm place until it doubles in volume.

2

Sift the flour over a bowl; add the sourdough starter, liquid whey or warm water seasoned with salt. Start kneading
the dough. Work well the dough until it gets to a medium consistency. For better results, gradually add some oil. Knead for at least 25-30 minutes.

3

When finished kneading, let the dough rise in a warm place. After the dough has doubled in volume, transfer to a wooden board. Take out 2/3 of the dough, knead and place it in a round baking tray, greased with oil.

4

Divide the rest of the dough in six equal parts and make three braids. Arrange one braid over the circumference of the baking tray and the other two in the shape of a cross over the bread. Fill the spaces between the braids with the
stuffing made of cottage cheese mixed with eggs and a pinch of salt. If the cheese is too soft add 2-3 tablespoons of semolina.

5

Grease the bread with egg yolk. Preheat the oven at 200 C and bake Pasca for 1,5-2h

Pasca – Moldovan Easter Bread

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