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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Lauren is a pretty good human, traveler and sometimes breakfast-maker who spends most of her time picking up things her cat, Oscar, knocks off shelves. She enjoys baking, reading, and decoding daily life in her new home; Romania.