8 days after Easter Moldovans celebrate Memorial Easter, which is a combination of Easter and Memorial Day in the states. This is a day when just about every grave in Moldova is covered with gifts and surrounded with loving family members gathering to honor their loved ones. Both of L’s parents are deceased and E’s father is deceased, so I went to the neighboring village’s cemetery with E while Curt went to the cemetery here in Bălăurești with L. After discussing each of our experiences we realized that the customs preformed on this day must depend on the village because they differed quite a bit.

In Zberoaia (Z-bear-why-uh) after first visiting L’s father’s grave, we took a cozonac (Easter bread), and a glass of wine with a candle in it to a big table right next to the church. Then L and L’s sister-in-law M decorated their father’s grave with pomene (religious gifts). As soon as the church bells started to ring, the priest made his way through the entire cemetery, not skipping even one grave as he blessed the graves, gifts, and people by sprinkling holy water with the top of a broom. After almost an hour the priest finished and made his way to the long table of bread, wine, and candles. There he chanted names of the deceased in the village as recorded in little books of family history stored at the church. After that ceremony, M took the wine and poured a little in the form of a cross on all four sides of the grave, leaving just enough for each family member to have a sip. And of course it wouldn’t really be a holiday if there wasn’t a a masă (Conveniently most graves have a table right next to them for this very reason.). The day ends with family members giving gifts in honor of their loved ones who have passed on. (I am now the owner of a red faux Gucci T-shirt… so Moldovan.)

This was a solemn day for many Moldovans filled with tears and heartache. On several occasions I witnessed people approaching the graves of their loved ones with hurt and despair on their faces. But it was also a very happy day as people gathered as family and friends, some of which are only seen once a year, on this day. On this day I was reminded of two people I loved so very dearly, and I would have loved to be honoring them alongside their graves.