Brasov’s Junii Festival – An Ancient Tradition

Brasov’s Junii Festival – An Ancient Tradition

Sometimes…ok, a lot of times, you can come across local customs or festivals and have no idea what is going on. Everyone else is really into it and seems to know what’s going on, but you just have to nod along and hope for a chance to ask someone who speaks English. These are some of the best experiences! This is also, incidentally, how I was introduced to the Junii Feast in Brasov.

What Is The Junii Feast:
Here’s what I found out when I got all the details:
The Junii Feast all starts with the district of Brasov known as the Schei.  When The city of Brasov was first built, it was by Germans who called it Kronstadt.  Romanians were actually not allowed inside the town walls, and instead lived and worked outside of the city.  To enter the walls they had to pay a toll and only enter through a particular gate; the Schei gate, named for the district it services.  On the Sunday after Orthodox Easter, Romanians were allowed free access through the gate for one day only so it evolved into a natural festival.
A picture of downtown Brasov as I was walking through today.
No one remembers when the tradition started, but the Junii Feast, also known as the The Feast of the Youth, has been practiced since anyone can remember.  Different groups of men, each coming from the seven different districts in the Schei neighborhood, dress in specific costumes and hats, and parade through town on horses in parade dress gear.  Some of the costumes go back to the 1730’s, and are often made and worn within families for generations.
This gentleman looked particularly flowery, I have to wonder who made his tunic. For sure something that has been passed down through his family for years.
While the historical festival goes on for a full week and involves quite a bit of wine and mic (Romanian sausages), Saturday and Sunday are the major times of celebration for the modern workweek.  I missed out on the Saturday celebrations, but caught the parade on Sunday with all the music and horses.
A band typically marches before the groups returning from the baton toss at Salomon Rocks.
On Sunday, they parade through town up to a natural waterfall and park known as Saloman Rocks where the young unmarried men throw their wooden batons into the air to see who can throw it highest (all while running for cover).  This is considered a coming of age ceremony: after completing their throw they are men.  Whichever group throws the highest baton wins the competition.  There is a lot more going on, of course, such as the headman being kidnapped in order to get a larger supply of wine (a Romanian tradition), but this is the basic idea.  After competing with their batons, the men parade back down through town, this time victorious.  There never seemed to be any sore losers, but that might be the excellent Romanian wine.
Want to learn more details?  Visit the Brasov Travel Guide for a more in-depth story.
As the riders pass, they will yell at the spectators, “Christ is risen,” and the people will yell back, “Indeed he is.”  There are competitions to see who can yell the loudest.
Enough with the history lessons, let’s look at some pretty pictures:
This picture was taken as the group headed up to the Rocks. You could see the nervousness on some of the mens’ faces.
While he didn’t have the tallest horse, he definitely had the best dressed one!
A dramatically different style of costume and probably the youngest competitor.
You might have noticed all the groups have different style hats along with their costumes. The hats also identify them as a specific group as well as their clothes.
On a side note, the whole city comes alive on this festival.  While you wouldn’t want to drive a car through town on this weekend, the pedestrian path will be the most interesting all year.  Visit the city center for some excellent traditional crafts, beer, wine, or mic.
A picture of the downtown market and all the people who don’t care as much about catching the parade.
Next year I hope to visit the Salomon Rocks to experience the other aspect of the holiday; the baton throwing.  For now, I’m glad I stumbled across this unique and memorable Brasovian tradition.
One last picture I snapped as I was walking home. These men are here almost every day of the week, and often bring lunch. Retirement looks pretty nice!
Has anyone else stumbled across a local tradition and not known what was going on?  Let me know about your accidental discoveries, I’m sure I can’t be the only one.

10 thoughts on “Brasov’s Junii Festival – An Ancient Tradition”

  • I enjoyed your article, Lauren. Looks like a very interesting area and tradition. The earlier pictures reminded me a little of the created RiverPlace in Frankenmuth.

  • What a bright and interesting festival! When we were in Sicily, we came across the festa di Santa Lucia. It’s a Catholic festival that celebrates the town’s Patron saint. Like in the Junii Festival, the whole town appeared to come out to see them carrying the statue from the church to the sea 🙂 I really enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing it.

  • I think I could do with some of that “magical preventing any loosers Romanian wine”in my life! Sounds like a great festival to visit and well done for deciphering some of its history. I love all their gorgeous outfits.

  • Reading this reminded me of the time I accidentally visited Bruges on Belgian National Day and didn’t understand anything that was happening because it was all in Flemish. I’ve been to Brasov but not for the Junii Feast. My father’s family is Romanian, so it would be cool for me to experience the tradition. Also I love that well-dressed horse!

  • I had to google Brasov to figure out where it was. However, that is what I like about your blog. You bring to light the culture, traditions, and festivals of places most us haven’t even heard about. I really liked the photographs as well. I’m not sure why, but it somehow reminded me of the Palio in Sienna, Italy.

  • This is so interesting! I feel like there is so much culture in Europe that I don’t know that much about and really enjoying learning more about it. I am adding this to my list of experiences I need to try. There seems to be such deep rooted culture and tradition that I find fascinating!

  • I loved your opening lines. I have been through that many times. For example, I was lost during the Kumari festival in Nepal! Junii feast is so exciting! The history behind Schei gate and the feast is so interesting! It is incredible that the festival has stood the test of time and is still being celebrated!

  • Fantastic shots you have captured of the beautiful festival! Those soldiers on horseback certainly seem to whisk us back to the medieval times, I would love to experience this for myself. Thanks for sharing.

  • I love love love finding unusual traditions in new places I visit, it really makes the place come alive! It’s amazing that the costumes are handed down through generations, and the horses are dressed beautifully too. What a great little festival to stumble on 🙂

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