Honor the departed on All Saints' Day in Transylvania

Iulia Condrea | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Every culture has its way of remembering the dead. After someone has passed, we start our mourning ritual. The burial proceedings are as much for us, as for the deceased. It’s a way for us to face our grief and accept that our loved ones aren’t with us anymore. All Saints’ Day is an international way of paying homage to those we have cherished, and a way of feeling close to them again. Legends say that on this day, our ancestors feel the pull to return to our dimensional realm. This may be due to our collective energetically-charged gatherings. Another assumption is that on this single day, the barrier between the living and the dead is open. Whichever the reason, our bonds with our departed seem to be the strongest on All Saints' Day. Honor your passed loved ones in Transylvania and celebrate this Christian festival in the Romanian way.

A day of spiritual connections

As a child, All Saints’ Day felt mesmerizing. The candle lights and the abundance of flowers were only part of this colorful celebration. To this day, they still play an essential role, but the main focus isn’t on these offerings per se. The focus is on the spiritual connection that these small rituals ensure, between the ones that have passed and us. Usually, in Romania, entire families gather in the cemetery on this holy day. The families make a pilgrimage of sorts, from one loved one’s burial place to the next. At every stop, the families decorate the graves and tell stories about the deceased. This is the moment when our departed are thought to walk among us, listening to our loving memories of them. Part of the custom is also the offering of sweets and food to the surrounding people who aren’t family members. Priests usually give sermons directly in the cemetery and are asked to pray with families in front of the graves.

© Iulia Condrea

Embrace the Romanian customs

Spending All Saints’ Day in another country means that one can embrace new traditions of honoring the dead and make them one’s own. Whenever people from other countries or cities go to a cemetery on this special day in Romania, many of them choose to decorate an unmarked grave. They light a candle for that unknown person and their lost ones. It’s the thought that counts, and keeping our ancestors in our hearts is an easy task, wherever we might find ourselves physically.

© istock/aja84

The Cemetery of the Church on the Hill

Because All Saints’ Day is a Romanian national holiday, there are only a couple of places where locals don't commemorate his day. Mostly, the traditions are upheld rigorously in the central and northern parts of the country. In the south, they have lost their intensity. For experiences to remember, choose The Cemetery of the Church on the Hill in Sighişoara, or as the locals call it, Cimitirul Bisericii din Deal. This Saxon cemetery is thought of as one of the most beautiful resting places in Romania. Most of the tombstones have German writings on them, having the occupations of the deceased carved in the stones, much like the Merry Cemetery in Săpânța.

© wikipedia/Myrabella

This Gothic corner of Sighişoara is both a cemetery and one of the preferred walking routes of the locals. In the summer, the old trees offer solace from the scorching sun, while in the winter, the white scenery and the views of the city below portray an enchanted land. The cemetery can also be accessed during the Sighişoara Medieval Festival or after spending some time at the city’s citadel and its Clock Tower. Keep in mind that the graveyard usually closes at 4 pm, but the schedule on this particular day has been modified in the past to accommodate the number of people celebrating until after dark.

© istock/TiberiuSahlean

Bistriţa’s Evangelical cemetery

All Saints’ Day in the city of Bistriţa is a multicultural event. As one walks in the Evangelical Cemetery on the little alleys between the graves, at least three languages can be heard. There are Saxon and Hungarian communities living in the city, which means that there are high chances that you will feel at home here. The cemetery regularly closes at 8 pm, the schedule being prolonged on this holy day. Between 6 pm and 7 pm is the best time to catch all of the small rituals in this old cemetery in the northern part of the country. While you're here, maybe eat some Mămăliga like Jonathan Harker from "Dracula" at the Golden Crown Hotel, only two minutes away from the cemetery.

©Iulia Condrea

Even though All Saints’ Day has varying dates of celebration across the country, know that in Transylvania, it is always held on the 1st of November. This is also the case for Sighişoara and Bistriţa. On this spiritually-loaded holiday, we honor those who are now vacant from our lives. The moments we once shared can bring our departed closer to us, through our loving memory of them. This day of remembrance is meant to be shared with others. Who better to share it with, than with Romanians who will embrace you in their traditions and give you a glimpse of their forever-lasting love for their families

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