The feast of “Sânziene” would have originally a Roman goddess Diana cult, Sânziana name as local holiday known especially in Transylvania comes from the “Sancta Diana”, while in Walachia and Oltenia “Dragaica” is celebrated, after a Slavonic name. According to some experts, the holiday has its origins in ancient Geto-Dacian cult of the Sun, Sânzienele been often represented by the Thracians linked in a dance.
The Orthodox Christian tradition, June 24 is the birthday of St. John the Baptist, the son of an elderly Elizabeth and preparing miracle of a virgin birth of our Savior.
Sânziene Festival (June 24) is manifested by a variety of rituals to ensure wealth of fields, fertility of the married women and the possibility of the unmarried girls to dream the chosen one this particularly night.
On the basis of these rituals are small rose-yellow flowers, called Sânziene (Lady’s Bedstraw), growing in meadows and girls are gathered in music and shriek young men, to form a circle then weave for girls and boys cross. These crowns are put into the house, the doors, the windows, the barns, the hives, and even in culture, in the belief that they will protect the house and the household, will bring good luck, health and abundance.
These girls throw their crowns on a roof; those who remain trapped heralding marry soon. The crown is thrown also over the cattle: if a young cow is hit the girl will marry a young man and if is caught an old one, an old man will be elected.
There are a number of customs for predicting one’s future spouse. A girl who sees nine Midsummer fires will marry before the end of the year. To see the chosen one, the girls sleep that night with a bunch of these flowers under the pillow. Also, if they wear flowers in their hair or breast, girls and married women will become attractive and loving ones.
Midsummer Day has a twofold meaning in Romania. One stands for the traditional Midsummer fairies that do a lot of mischief. The other is a reminder of the nice smelling flowers of Lady’s Bedstraw. Young girls make wreathes out of them and the boys cross-shaped braids. The flowers are then thrown into the cattle pen. If the wreath gets stuck on an old beast, the future spouse will be elderly. If the animal is young, so will the spouse be. On this day, the lads of Maramures (north-west Romania) go out in the evening holding fire torches which they move around in the sense of the sun in the sky. When the torches are about to go out the young men descend the hills, surround the plots, enter into people’s yards and give the torches to their parents to thrust them into the soil of their gardens. On the same day, in Moldavia, Walachia and Dobrogea, two or four maidens, two of them dressed as lads, perform the Wicked Fairy’s dance. The girls may be accompanied by a boy who plays the flute or the bagpipe and carries a banner on which colored handkerchiefs, bedstraw flowers, garlic and wheat ears are attached. In some villages, the Wicked Fairies wield scythes and fight among themselves.
Another procession usually is Dragaica escort – the most beautiful and quiet of the village girls, who roams along with other young dressed in white. At the crossroads, the girls stop and do a dance singing. It is also customary that girls and boys to be watered by that early morning walk through the village with flowers hanged on hats.
Sânziene feast is a special moment for residents of several areas of the county Nasaud, some of them say that this day might even learn how to live longer. On the eve of the feast in the evening, the children gather Sânziene and lay them on the doors of houses, one for each family member. This is because one of which is said to be fading Sânziana second day will die before the others. In other places, Sânziene blend crown and discard the house: if it remains on the roof, at which it was intended can expect the worst.
In Sâncel village of Alba County, tradition requires that the night before the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, households decorate their doors with a cross and a flower of Sânziene (Lady’s Bedstraw). On Sânziene day, villagers gather on the field flowers and make garlands for each family member and for each animal in the household. Crowns family members thrown then a man on the roof, then shouting and name of the crown which it belongs. Village elders tell that every crown should remain on the roof, to defend the evil of which it is intended, and if you fall, that family member will go badly all year. Villagers throw then on the roof the crown made for the animal stables from the household, tradition saying that they will be protected from evil.
There is also a popular superstition those specific holidays, that people should not bathe and if not the magical forces will embrace around them.
On the other hand for the girls, there is a ritual of washing with dew. Have gathered at dawn dew on plants, inviolate places on a white cloth, and then squeezed into a new pot. Old ladies in charge of it, then they bring the dew in the village, not to mention the road and avoiding meeting someone. With this dew will wash the girls who want to marry quickly, but also married women who want to be loved by their husbands and have beautiful and healthy children.
A superstition which still refers to love, says that lovers are together dip in the river or at sea will be lovers for life.
In Transylvania they say that, on Sânziene day, old treasures can be searched buried in the ground, because the night before, above the place where are hidden would light a fire.
Sânziene Festival is considered to be the best time in the middle of summer, to gather medicine plants and the spell also. Thus, on the night of Sânziene, women go to pick flowers and herbs that will be used against diseases and other evils.
The initial significance of the custom compares the maidens to ripening wheat. Thus, a transfer of fertility between the two kingdoms, animal and vegetal, is achieved. Sickles that will pull down the plants symbolize the mowing of human lives, as well as the eternal duel between winter and summer, between the good and the evil forces. Sânzienele are bad pixies of the night in Romanian folk tradition. People think these pixies could influence future marriages. Every 24 June, in the Sânziene’s night, unmarried girls cut petals of a thistle flower. Then they keep that flower in a glass of water. They say that the faster petals grow back at the thistle she looks after, the bigger her chances are to marry the man she loves.Legends say that “Sânzienele”, some very beautiful girls who live in the woods or fields, are caught in dance and given magical powers plants. These fairies are good, if they are properly celebrated, bring fruitful harvests, help the girls to find the “chosen” one, give healthy babies to the married women, and heal the sick animals. But if people do not celebrate them properly, they become angry and evil fairies also known as Fairies or Pentecost.
Fairies are described as virgins with magical powers of seduction. It is believed they live in the air, in forests or in caves, on the banks of water or crossroads and occur mainly at night by moonlight, spinning in dance, in retreats, dancing naked, with disheveled hair and bells feet, in some ways. The place is still danced like fire and grass is burned and no longer grows anymore. It is believed that on Sânziene Night, Fairies gather and dance in the forest and who will see them will become mute and crazy.
Practices related to crowning, boys lighting torches, cakes called “torch of Sânziene” entitle the ethnologists and folklorists to consider this festival as one dedicated to the cult of the Sun.