Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Venit Mos Craciun

Well, I've had my first Christmas in Romania, and it all went pretty well. I spent Christmas Eve with about 20 of my 12th graders. We went caroling from house to house, and even stopped to sing for some strangers on the street. All the carols were traditional Romanian pieces I had never heard before, so I had to learn the words on the fly (and most of the time I didn't understand what I was singing). We visited a bunch of the teachers from Brediceanu, the highschool. Some of them live in small apartments, which made it interesting when the entire group of carolers tried to stuff into the living room. We sang two or three songs at every home, and stayed for a while to talk and sample the wares of the household. Many of our hosts thought that because I'm American it would be a good idea to give me whiskey. So, I got my share of Jack Daniels (which is really expensive in Romania). I don't even like whiskey.

After caroling, I went to visit a colleague and his family at their home. I ended up having dinner with them at about 10, and stayed at their home till 3. I had given them a bottle of wine. We cracked it open and talked for a while.

Later that morning I went to an Orthodox Christmas service. It started at 10, and lasted until 1. I suppose it goes without saying that it was a very long mass. The ceremony itself was much different than what I'm used to from Catholic masses. There were no scripture readings, no singing by the parish. The priest(s) simply seemed to recite many ritualistic prayers. The choir sang some unfamiliar, almost medieval-sounding chants. There seemed to be several holy men in attendance, one of whom was responsible for walking around while swinging the incense. It was pretty interesting. The layout of the church itself was different. There were some pews, but also a large open space in front the altar (which was concealed by a templon wall, with a curtains and three gates through which the priests passed back and forth). In the middle of that open space there was what appeared to be a bible resting on a book stand. During the early part of the service people seemed to mill around and genuflect in front of the bible. However, as the service progressed, more people came and the open space began to fill up with spectators. By the end of the three hours, the place was packed. To be completely honest, the mass was so long and I was so tired (having been up till 3) that I fell asleep during the middle part. However, I rallied towards the end. I'm not sure I'll attend another Orthodox Christmas service. But it was something I thought was worth experiencing. I'd say the coolest part was when they rang the church bells. There was a man up on the choir balcony who pulled a giant chord which was connected to the bells. Their resounding 'ding-dong' sent subtle vibrations throughout the church.

After the service was over I went to another colleague's house. We had a huge dinner and played a board game in which one of the players is 'Agent X' somewhere in London, and the others are officers trying to surround and capture him. It was actually pretty tough.

So, what did Santa bring me? Santa, by the way, is called 'Mos Craciun' in Romania (pronounced: Mosh Cratch-yoon). I've gotten several cards from friends and students. I've also received candles and free meals from worried mothers who think I'm too skinny. Flavia gave me a scarf, a calendar with Romania's landmarks, a CD of famous pieces by Romanian composers, a box of cookies, and a stocking that says "Merry Christmas." I've hung it up as one of my two Christmas decorations (the other is a page taken from a Charlie Brown coloring book, and shows Charlie playing with a train under a Christmas tree-- given to me by a friend and former PCV). I also got some packages from home-- one that was filled with books and Reese's peanut butter cups (Reese's are a big hit with my Romanian friends), and the other sent by my brother with DVDs and a picture of my niece (she's getting so big). And, last but not least, I received a pressure cooker from my colleagues at the school. They've caught wind of my new interest in cooking.

I ended my Christmas by making a skype call to my family back home. We miss each other very much, but talking for free on skype made it a little better.

Here's a picture of my land-lady's christmas tree. I helped to set it up on Sunday. It was funny, she approached me asking for help because the tree wouldn't fit in her tree stand (which was not adjustable, but simply had a pipe to receive the trunk-- and the trunk was about twice the diameter of the pipe). I spent a few minutes widdling down the trunk so that it'd fit. Then we trimmed the tree:


Jack Nork said...

Merry Christmas Mike!
Have a great week off.

Cameron Wright said...

Merry Christmas!

Holidays are so much fun here! I'm glad you had as much fun as I did!

Rachel said...

These latest entries have quite the anthropological angle to them (the Roma tradition, the Orthodox service)... cool stuff. Especially the music samples, those were awesome!

Nerd alert: Mos means 'custom' or 'tradition' in Latin... I know it probably means something a little different in Romanian, but it's still interesting that they incorporated that word into their translation of Santa Claus.

Anyway, glad to hear you had a great Christmas! I've played that Agent X game, forgot the name but I remember it's fun, like a logic puzzle. Hope to catch you online soon. Oh, and an nou fericit!

etarak said...

Sounds like a very interesting way to spend Christmas. Although I'm Jewish, I found it cool to spend last Christmas near the Vatican. It was like being in a different world.
I hope you have a wonderful new years! Keep in touch.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike: Happy New Year from the Donahue's. We had our taditional dinner laswt night.. Your Dad crashed early and boy can hje snore. We wokehim uip in time for the Ball to drop in NYC.

Bill and Dotttie