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Romanian Traditions -The Maiden Fair

Claudia Miclaus Aug 12, 2020
One of the Romanian traditions that survived till date is the 'Maiden Fair'. It is an incredibly enjoyable day for the people wherein they gather on the mountain top of Gaina and celebrate life.

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This special event is quite popular amongst the Romanian people. It is a living tradition of the mountain-dwellers in the Western Carpathians also known as Western Mountains. This amazingly beautiful region naturally abounds in legends and ancient stories.

The Festival

Among many Romanian traditions that survived from ancient times, the Maiden Fair made it to this day, although it has reduced it's ancient proportions to a pleasant gathering of friends and neighbors, a day to get in touch and celebrate the community.
Gaiety, enjoying the beautiful nature of the region and it's very friendly people, this celebration is actually a pretext for going out, savoring delicious traditional food, socializing, and buying trinkets. Even though it's called 'maiden fair', nobody sells or buys girls on this event, and perhaps such trade never happened.
Nevertheless, it is a big celebration of all the mountain-dwellers, gathering from far distances to one particular spot in the mountains, to meet each other, exchange ideas and traditions, sing, dance, enjoy themselves, and celebrate being alive.
There were plenty of situations in which young boys would meet young girls from different, far away villages, and end up getting married. However, the main purpose of this event seems to be the social interaction of young people all around the Western Mountains.
Its idea was given by the fact that the villages there are scattered at large distances, with some kilometers from house to house, so it was quite hard for people to meet. Climate can also be quite harsh, so they needed a special occasion to be able to reach each other.

The Legend of this Festival

This festival also has its own legend. According to it, there was a small hen on the Gaina mountain peak (in Romanian, gaina means hen) which was laying golden eggs. Because of that, people started to protect her. The legend said the hen could be seen only once a year.
On the Saint Elijah's Day, the mountain-dwellers used to get together and share their joys, problems, hopes and dreams. The hen would come down from her secret dwelling place on the mountain peak, wave its wings, and suddenly turn into a beautiful goddess.
To each couple who had met on her mountain, she would offer a golden egg as a blessing and wish for a happy life. People would applaud her and express gratitude. With the roaring sound of the applauds, the goddess would raise her hands towards the sky, turn back into a hen, and disappear from the human eyes.
Yet, there were malevolent people who wanted to find the hen's nest and steal its golden eggs. With the help of evil spirits, they eventually succeeded in finding the secret dwelling place. Since the bird was not there, they stole the golden eggs and left the place in great hurry.
When it returned home and found the place devastated, she got very sad and left the place, flying away to another mountain, called Rosia Montana. Although the people felt very sorry for the missing hen, and implored it to return to the mountain; the hen was quite determined to stay where she was now.
It is said that the thief who stole the golden eggs fell into a deep pit, and also took the golden eggs in his fall. These eggs miraculously turned into water torrents, and the crack where he fell can be seen even today.
The Fair happens in summer, on the St. Elijah's Day (20th July). The preparations can actually take months on end for the young girls wishing to find their husbands there.