This weekend I attended a Romanian baptism(botez) for the 2nd time since I've been here. The baptism is one of those traditions that both Romanians and volunteers have told me not to pass up an invitation to.
First I attended the ceremony at noon. It was all that one would expect out of a baptism ceremony. There were family and friends present, priests praying, naked baby, and only a little bit of crying. It made me realize that I have never actually seen a baptism in the US, or maybe I just don't remember attending one. In a Romanian baptism the godparents have a very important role. They are the ones who bring the baby, hold it throughout the ceremony, dry it off, and cloth it after the dunking. The actual parents of the baby just sit back, watch, and take pictures as the ceremony progresses. Less than an hour later I was back at home waiting for the party to start and realizing that that was the first time I had been in a church in Petrosani.
The party was a blast.
I showed up there with my counterpart at about three and I left at at about ten. When I arrived I was greeted by the father of the baby, I congratulated the mother and presented her with a small gift for Tudor. My table was the furthest table from the family of the baby, but I sat with some people that I was relatively familiar with so I felt pretty welcomed. It didn't take long for me to realize that I was at the dancing table. As part of the dancing table I felt that it was my duty to get up and show off some moves, especially when the classic American medley came on. "Lets do the twist." I'll admit that I don't quite cut the rug on the dance floor but that was OK at this particular event because the father of the kids that I tutor happened to be the life of the party with his creative dance moves, loud yelling and whistling(he's Moldovan), and overall celebratory spirit. He's automatically invited to my wedding, whenever it may be. I am learning to love Romanian dance, and even some Romanian pop music. I can finally do the slowed down version of the sarba (when it speeds up I get lost) and I may like that more than my previous favorite, the Brasovanca.
One dance that really caught my eye, from the seat at my table, was this slowed down version of the sarba that included a towel and kissing. In the middle of the dance circle someone stands with a small towel. That person chooses one of the dancers and puts the towel around their neck to pull them to the center of the circle. The towel is then put on the ground, both people kneel down on the towel, and kiss each others cheeks. The person chosen before, now has the opportunity to choose someone. This all happens as people are dancing around them. It was fun to watch but suddenly I found myself being pulled in from my table which was conveniently located next to the dance floor. Tudor's mother decided to pull me in from outside the circle and include me in yet another traditional dance. I'm not one to enjoy being the center of attention but I got some kisses out of it.
The food was great. We started out with some appetizers which included a small plate with three different kinds of ham, salami, cheese, branza, and a tomato. Next came the fish which I haven't quite mastered how to eat yet, but I'm getting better. After the fish we waited a while until the ciorba came out. After more time on the dance floor the main course came out which included some chicken, pork, rice, cabbage salad, and mashed potatoes. By that time we had been eating and drinking with a lot of long dancing breaks for close to 8 hours. On my way out I was handed some cake to take home with me.
I had a great time throughout the whole experience. After two baptisms I have learned that it is a very big deal in Romania, it brings people together, everybody has a great time, there's lots of good food and drink, and dancing is a must. I left the party very happy for several reasons previously mentioned, but also because I spent my entire time there in the Romanian language. Though there was a lot dancing there was also a lot of speaking and I came out of the party with a sense of accomplishment after speaking so much in Romanian, being able to say all that I wanted to say, and being understood by my neighbors at my table.
La Multi Ani!