Because it's my birthday! Well it's not exactly my birthday. I was born in April. But according to our customs, today is my "name day". It's Saint Andrew's day. And my name is Andrei (meaning Andrew in English), so it's my day.
Although I'm not a religious person, I can't just pretend that this isn't a very important day. It's the day of the historical (biblical) character that inspired my parents to give me this beautiful name. Actually I'm named after my grandfather, but that doesn't matter. He was probably named after the saint. Or his grandfather, who cares. Anyway, as I was saying, this is Saint Andrew's day. With that idea in mind I was trying to remember what exactly did this character do to become a saint. What were his great accomplishments? You see in Romanian tradition, maybe in other cultures, there are at least two customs related to this day. I mean two that I heard of, it's possible there are more. But I'll tell you about them later. First I did a quick search on the Internet, to see what I can find out about the guy whose name I bear. And this is a short version of what I found:
Saint Andrew is a Christian Apostle and the elder brother of Saint Peter. Boy, those two must have been the joy of any parent :) He is the patron saint of Romania (that's were I live) and Russia. That's the country everyone thinks Romanians are from when they hear them speak. I don't know why, there aren't many things in common between the two. A Romanian can't understand the Russian language and a Russian definitely can't understand the Romanian language. But anyway, back to Saint Andrew. After all that wondering through the world spreading religion to all those barbaric tribes (or maybe running from the romans, who knows), he was crucified on a X-shaped cross, now commonly known as "St. Andrew's Cross". Why X-shaped? It was his request, because he didn't consider himself worthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Christ. So he died and became a saint. Good for him.
I was telling you about the fact that there are two traditions related to this day. So here they are:
- the first one is related to love and romance and happy things. It is said that on the night of St. Andrew, whoever places a little sweet basil under his/her pillow dreams that night the one that is his/her soul mate. That's an old habit told by the elders and many people believe it's true.
- the second one is on the horror side. It is said that on the night of St. Andrew, the so coled "strigoi" (after a quick dictionary search, it seams it means ghosts or specters in English) come out to stalk and attack people. Pretty much like Halloween. To be protected from these creatures you must place garlic at your windows and doors frames so they can't come in the house. That reminds me a little of the Dracula stories. Maybe Bram Stoker was inspired from more than one of the local legends when he wrote his famous book.
There might be other traditions related to this day in Romanian culture, but these are the only ones I know of. The first one I only recently heard about. I don't believe and I don't practice any of these, but are really nice stories and go well on a cold winter night, in front of the fireplace, with a cup of hot wine/chocolate/tea.
But now, I'm off to get drunk, because it's my name day. So it's a happy, happy day. For me and for those that I'll have to buy drinks to. I think I'll end up broke after tonight, but it doesn't matter. I'll be really drunk and I won't care.