The Soul of Village Community:

Hospitality, Generosity and Tradition

September 03, 2015  |  By Maelle Thome, France

The Soul of Village Community:

Photo : Maelle Thome

The Soul of Village Community:

Photo : Maelle Thome

The Soul of Village Community:

Photo : Maelle Thome

The Soul of Village Community:

Photo : Maelle Thome

A really special gathering took place in the central park of Voslobeni, a small village in the middle of Transylvania’s woods, in Harghita County at the beginning of the month. The shepherd, the teacher, her daughter and most of the community were there to have fun together. Women wore traditional costumes, men danced to folk music and popular Romanian drinks were offered to everyone. 

The clothing immediately catches the eyes. The basic garment for both men and women is a shirt, called 'ie', which is made from hemp, linen or woollen fabric. The cut of this basic chemise is similar for men and women. Over this top and the underskirt, the 'poale', women wear an apron, the 'catrinta' which was initially a single piece of cloth wrapped round the lower part of their bodies. But in Transylvania this became two separate aprons, one worn at the back and one at the front. It is always tied round the waist using a belt, called the 'brâu'. Among the elements that should not miss in women’s clothing are the head coverings, named 'naframa'.

The composition of Romanian traditional costumes has remained unchanged throughout history and can be traced back to the earliest times. Even if they are all similar, each of them is marked out by particular colours, patterns and cloths. These garments are all hand made which makes them so special, but also they were bequeathed by ancestors through generations during more than two hundred years. That is why when we ask these costumes’ owners how much the clothing would cost, they simply answer “They are priceless”, all at once. They received them from their grand parents or great grandparents who used to wear them for religious gatherings, dance competitions, festivals. Nowadays, these costumes are used for important events such as weddings or even birthdays. It was not a long time ago that they were celebrating the sixteenth birthday of one of the women of the community. 

On these kind of occasions, Romanian people like to dance, applying what they learned from their parents. A rich variety of traditional dances still exists in Romania mostly because of the isolation imposed by Ceausescu, which resulted in the continuance of a peasant life style.

The 'Hora' is surely the most common and popular dance. It is a Romanian folk dance where the dancers hold each other's hands and dance in a circle, usually counterclockwise, as each participant follows a sequence of three steps forward and one step back. 

Romania is a unique European country as its folklore still exists in its natural environment, but this is now fast vanishing with the spread of Western culture and modern technology. Women of Voslobeni Village in Harghita County especially expressed their fear to loose their legacy. The main problem being the lack of places for work, most of the young generation leaves the village to find jobs in bigger cities. And “they do not show interest in coming back” said one of the women “they want to fit in their time”. The youth doesn’t seem to care about keeping traditions alive. Instead, they intend to integrate the modern society. Several children move in big cities such as Bucharest or Brasov and sometimes they go even further, to other countries, other continents, like America or Australia. Preserving their ancestors’ inheritance has become an issue, as the population becomes more and more reduced and old. Although globalization has certainly made  life easier, it also contributes to the slow death of customs, which are part of the local soul. 

Fortunately, it is not completely disappearing. There were several children during the event in Voslobeni village, who represent hope of keeping these customs. Alexandra, 14 years old, was present and spoke about a new complex being build in front of the school, for the community, where they can go and take dance and fanfare lessons.  She was wearing the traditional costume, just like her mother. Some of her classmates are already part of a group which enable them to practice traditional dance together, and make the community’s soul live.

The village of Voslobeni, Harghita County, with its customs, landscapes and the well-preserved nature is worth fighting for to protect the heritage. We had the pleasure to go in the heart of this heritage, in the middle of the woods of Izvoru Muresului village, thanks to Forika Istvan, vice-mayor of the village, in a horse-drawn carriage. He helped us discover the wildness of the mountains of Izvoru Muresului Village, so green and soothing. This experience highlighted the beauty, interest and charm of this village whose interest is also due to the National Complex of Sports. This immense place generously put us up, thanks to the director Chindea Gavril. He offered us comfortable accommodations, delicious meals and a really warm welcome. 

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