Going to a Traditional Moldovan Wedding – {part 1}

Upon my return to Moldova, within 3 days I was attending a friends wedding. This was the 2nd time I’ve had the chance to attend a wedding during my time as a volunteer in Moldova. I even had the opportunity to take part in the traditional festivities that happen before the big reception later in the day.

Some fun facts about Moldovan weddings:

  •  Sometimes couples will get married either in the church and/or legally at the mayor’s office and then celebrate with the large reception a year or so later (after saving money to host the party);
  •  It is tradition to have nanasi [nan-ash-i], best described as marriage godparents (or spiritual parents) to help the couple when issues arise in their marriage – the nanasi play a big role during the wedding celebration;
  • There is a wedding “season” in Moldova, typically weddings are not held during post (fasting due to religious holidays) but more so in the fall around wine making season;
  •  When attending a wedding, it is expected to bring flowers (although, a new trend is to bring a book for the couple) along with money and a gift;
  • Moldovan weddings are full of traditions — from the food, to the music, and dancing and beyond..
On the day of the wedding, about mid-day, I made my way to the brides family home where all the ladies were getting their hair and makeup done.
After a few hours, they were ready to go and were waiting on the groom and his friends to arrive. After some honking of horns and yelling, the men had arrived and they had to go through some traditions before finding the bride.
After the groom and his friends completed all the necessary traditional activities the groom was able to see his bride…and we all toasted to the start of the festivities while they took photos.
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Next, all the young people piled into decorated cars to make their way to the nanasi’s home. Once arrived, we made a scene going into their apartment where they hosted us for champagne toasts and treats.
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Next we all piled back into the cars and went to the city center to the casa nunta – wedding house where they signed the papers to make it official by the state that they are married.
After that I went with my friend to the wedding hall where the reception was being held so they could prep for the 100+ people who were coming to the big party.
It was impressive with all the decor, abundance of food, and the fancy setup.
There were many traditions that were new for me so I spent a lot of the time confused throughout the wedding. I’ll share more in the next post on these traditions from the wedding – stay tuned!
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Ringing in the Year Ahead

September 1st marks the first day of school all across Moldova. Every school starts out the day with some sort of special celebration complete with welcoming the new 1st grade students to their first day of school and acknowledging the seniors as they begin their last year of school.

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The seniors walked in to the first bell ceremony holding the hands of the 1st graders and walked them around the circle. 

The celebrations are typically complete with special music, dancing, singing, and/or reciting poetry. I had the opportunity to go to the first bell with my host sister from pre-service training (PST) and see her start her 10th year in school.  This was all shortly after I had arrived back in Moldova and was grateful I could join in this tradition as it also marked beginning my 3rd year as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova.

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Young girls presented a traditional bread on a traditional hand-stitched cloth to the director of the school.

You could sense the anticipation of the school year from all the various ages, including the parents. I had learned that many of the children are not even from this village as they are transported in from other nearby villages so they can attend school for the year.

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Genuine excitement for the 1st graders since they got their first books for school during the ceremony. 

At the end of the first bell ceremony, the tradition is that a senior boy carries a 1st grade girl on his shoulders as she rings the bell… literally ringing in the start of the school year.

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Here’s to a bright school year ahead for all the students and teachers! Noroc!

Ringing of the Bell & Farewells

One of the traditions that Peace Corps holds is when a volunteer successfully completes his/her service they get to ring “the bell”.

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COS stands for Close of Service. The bell we have in Moldova is displayed all year round  at the front door of the Peace Corps office and serves as a reminder as we enter and exit the office.

Ironically, in Moldova it is tradition for the school year to start and end with a ringing of the bell. The ceremonies are even translate to “First Bell” which starts the school year and “Last Bell” which finishes the school year. I like that this tradition seems to parallel with our Peace Corps tradition as we ring the “last bell” which symbolizes the completion of our time as volunteers in Moldova.

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From a “First Bell” ceremony at one of the local schools in Moldova, a young girl in the first grade rings the bell while being carried on the shoulders of a senior boy.

I’ve had the honor to see a few of my colleagues and friends ring the bell recently. It was a nice tradition to be part of especially after knowing some of the challenges and hardships that some of them had been through.

Usually a few words are said by staff and friends, and then the volunteer shares a bit with those who are gathered to celebrate this momentous occasion.

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Many gathered when Ellen and Olivia rang the bell and some shared stories, thanks, and encouragement at this time

My friend, Miki was the first one of our program group to leave and ring the bell in completion of her service. Although, I’m sad to see her leave I’m thrilled for all that is ahead of her as she returns to the US.

Next within our program group, Olivia and Ellen rang the bell and departed Moldova soon after to head home to the US. I will surely miss working with them as I’ve had the privilege to work with both of them on separate projects. It’s going to be strange not having them around and in the same timezone. I’m going to miss them terribly.

The latest and largest bell ringing I had the opportunity to attend was with all of these newly appointed RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers).

One of my site mates, Jeff even dressed in a traditional Moldovan shirt for the occasion.

Each day as my friends and colleagues “ring the bell” and depart Moldova it reminds me of the transition we all are currently facing and how short the time frame of 2 years is.

Only 400+ some days left until I too get to ring the bell to COS! Here’s to all that is ahead as we embrace “now” and beyond! xoxo

A Journey through June

June was full of a lot of events and was just the beginning of many goodbyes. A season of change but not without making memorable memories.

This month  was the beginning of fresh fruits and the ever popular delicious cherry season!

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These cherries were from my host family’s village house.

I got to attend my first wedding where my local friend and work partner along with a returned Peace Corps Volunteer celebrated their marriage in Moldova. It was a beautiful celebration, full of traditions and great people! They looked wonderful in their traditional Moldovan clothing and the setting was absolutely beautiful!

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There was even a special RPCV (returned Peace Corps volunteer) guest that came back to visit Moldova especially for the wedding! It was great getting to spend some quality time with her and to catch up on life.

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Not long after that, a few friends and I found ourselves in fields of lavender.

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One afternoon between running errands, we stumbled upon some new, creative art in the capital city. I’ll need to keep my eyes peeled for more. Chisinau is getting creative!

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I also got the final answer on being able to extend for a third year and was finally able to share the news with family and friends!

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My host family added a new addition to our apartment. Meet my new-found crazy cat friend who goes from attacking me to loving me in a matter of 2 seconds. I’ve personally somehow come to the conclusion that his name is Mr. Whiskey.

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The farewells began in June as I along with 2 other site mates began to say “see you later” to Balti and the youth we’ve gotten to know during our 2 years. We celebrated in the park on a hot day with some ice cream and fun photos.

One evening I found myself hanging out with 2 other volunteers playing Settlers of Catan. We had a blast and I realized it has been waaaay too long since I’ve played this game.

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Our M29 Community & Organizational Development (COD) program sector had a nice evening where we all got together and took out our program manager and assistant manager for a nice dinner and time together.

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The farewells continued through the end of the month and into July as colleagues rang the bell to complete their Peace Corps service.

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Miki was the first to ring the bell from our program group!

Next… I’ll share more about the bell ringing tradition that come when volunteers successfully complete their Peace Corps service, or as we call COS (close of service).

The Easter holiday continues with Memorial Easter

Memorial Easter known as Paştele Blajinilor was celebrated this past weekend. One week after Easter, families go to the cemetery with food and wine to remember those who have passed away. They gather with friends and family to honor their loved ones. In the cemeteries there are a number of benches and small tables where people share food and wine with one another.

They may take flowers to decorate the grave-site, but they must be in even numbers. Individual arrangements are laid at each grave-site of colac (braided bread) and other items like candy or an egg. They also have additional bread arrangements where they exchange with others as they visit and share wine.

After decorating the graves, small cans of incense are lit and the priest with his attendants will come along to give a blessing. As the priest chants the blessing, he will pour a dash of wine alongside the grave. The family gives him money and an arrangement of bread which is placed into a large basket carried by one of the attendants. The priest will move along to each site until they all have been visited.

Afterwards they will eat and drink together at the cemetery and then continue the celebration at home.

I was not able to take part in Memorial Easter this year since my host family went to Ukraine for the holiday. But of course we celebrated when they returned home with all the leftover food and had a large meal (masa) together. 🙂