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The Flowers of Timișoara

a colorful floral display with an 1800s building in the background
Palm Sunday Flowers, Unity Square, Timișoara, Romania

This past Sunday, the three squares in Timișoara, like ones in other cities and towns across Romania, are filled with fragrant and colorful flower displays. It’s a tradition celebrating Palm Sunday but has many roots (no pun intended) that predate Christianity.

While the chocolate bunnies, dyed eggs, and Peeps are now just a memory in the States, Romanian people, depending on their religion, observe Easter according to the Julian calendar used by the Eastern Orthodox Church or by the Gregorian calandar that most Western churches use. This year, Orthodox Easter in Romania, or Paștele*, is observed Sunday, May 5.

After a brief spell of overcast and chilly weather, spring returned in its glory this weekend, so it didn’t take much for Corie and me to heed our friend Raluca’s advice and spend some time in the city’s historic squares for a celebration called Floriile.

Before it became associated with Palm Sunday, Floriile was a Roman festival dedicated to the goddess of flowers and spring, Flora. During the five-day festival, participants wore flowers in their hair, set animals free, drank excessively, and participated in a few fertility-related amusements that were not carried forward in its Christian adaptation.

Today, Floriile commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and observers attend church with willow branches to have them blessed before taking them home. It is also a special day for approximately 1.8 million Romanians whose names are associated with flowers.

Woman standing in front of a large flower display
Woman Posing for a Photo, Timișoara, Romania

Corie and I started our walk in Timișoara’s Victory Square where the ornamental fountain has been decorated in a coat of colorful blossoms. As friends and families posed in front of the fountain for photos and selfies, it made me happy that in today’s quickly changing digital age, a simple but beautiful display of flowers could inspire so much joy.

We continued along historic pedestrian-only streets to Liberty Square, the smallest of the three squares and home to an Easter market that is open between the Gregorian calendar’s Easter and the Julian calendar’s.

The smell of street food fills the air in Liberty Square, so Corie and I had to stop for langoși, a Hungarian fried bread topped with shredded feta. Corie declared it to be her new favorite food, and we celebrated our discovery with a glass of sangria, made with Romanian wine of course.

We continued our walk to Unity Square, my favorite of the three. Bordered by ornate baroque and art nouveau buildings, the square is a natural place for the lively flower arrangements of roses, lilies, hydrangeas, tulips and other blossoms, located along the walkways.

Unity Square is normally a place that invites you to slow down, relax at one of the sidewalk cafes, and people watch and, with the fragrant arrangements dotting the space, it became even more so. Under a deep blue sky, the only sound was the muffled hum of the crowd’s voices, punctuated every now and then with joyful laughter among friends.

Since Corie and I are eager to return for more langoși and sangria, we’ll be returning to Liberty Square next week and spending more time at the Easter market before the most important holiday on the Orthodox calendar. I hope you’ll join us next week.

But before I leave you this week, I should mention another recent holiday here in Romania, St. George’s Day, which was this past Tuesday. Another one of our Romanian friends messaged me that morning, alerting me to the holiday. I asked her what one does to observe it.

“We don’t do housework,” she replied.

I felt like a true native all day Tuesday since we, coincidentally, had not done anything that could be construed as housework. In fact, I’d find myself quite content to observe the holiday many, many more times this year.

* The Romanian letter ș, or the highly technical term Corie and I use, "the S with the tail," is pronounced like the s in the English word "sure." 

Two red lilies surrounded by small white flowers
Palm Sunday Flowers


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