Thursday, 17 December 2009

Snow in Paris!

   It's a bit of a swarm of things left to do over here. Tomorrow I've got a plane for Canada, and it's the first time I'll be going back in the three years since we first moved here.  And today, Paris is crazy with snow.
   Happily, my mummers are all set to march off to the four corners of the world.  I'm so glad all the printing is done... getting the ink to stick to thick card paper was trickier than I'd expected and by the end of it, my wrists were killing me from pressing down down down.

  The idea for the card came from a trip to Romania two Christmases ago. Romania must be one of my favourite places of all. We (my husband and I) spent the whole trip wandering from one little mountain village to another in the northern parts of the country and never made it down to Bucharest. As long as we stayed in the villages, it was a fairyland of hoarfrost and old wooden churches, with about as many horses as cars passing us by on the roads.

(click to enlarge -- though actually ,the ruined citadel is not from a village but in the city of Suceava)

   As there were not many buses, and the trains seemed only to run at night, we ended up hitch-hiking a little. It was cold walking outside all day. We were lucky enough to be picked up by two guys on their way to the very same village we were trying to get to. One of them spoke very good French and soon we were chatting away. In town he introduced us to his family, and had another man get the keys to their local church to show it to us. Unfortunately we don't speak Romanian, but from what we gathered from the man showing the church, it was built secretly at night during Soviet rule (as building churches was forbidden at this time) and was funded entirely through donations from the local community. He moved things around and showed us the names of donors carved into places hidden from view to avoid trouble. Apparently, the people of this town, Ieud, are very proud of having strongly resisted Soviet control. 

   The main reason we had been hoping to visit this particular village was to visit the very old wooden church there, which we did the next day, but the modern church is also gorgeous.
   We stayed on with the family of the man who gave us a lift into town. They were some of the kindest people ever... we spoke to them through translation from the brother of the woman whose house we stayed in; he was just back from working in England. We ate cabbage rolls and drank plum liquor and went visiting to the extended family and then to bed next to the tile-covered stove. Before it was light the brother crept into the house to wake us so we could come and see the Christmas pig get killed. Some of the young children of the family came to watch, and were sliding about on icy patches in the ground, happy as can be.
    The whole rest of the day was spent making sausages and things. We left at dusk on a bus to catch another night train. Before we left they gave us bags full of beautiful breads... a round braided loaf like a wreath, a loaf with spirals of poppy seeds through it (which was very like one that my grandmother used to make for our breakfast every Christmas, so I was very happy), and a plain one.
    And I am off topic, even if I did try to keep it short, but they are good memories!
   Anyway, in Romania around Christmas and New Years, there are lots of mummers out. And you find them even in the unlikeliest places in villages and cities alike.

Even while spending a long night waiting in a freezing train station, you might see some!

   Sometimes they play music and wear wild costumes. Sometimes they have cows or horses pulling a wagon with a small Christmas tree on it. Other times they are carollers in traditional costume. If you are interested in reading more you could look here or here or here or you could look at these videos, which seem to be part of a professionally made film. If you look at the related You Tube videos you can find lots more videos that have been made on the street or from people looking out of their apartments down at mummers on city streets. Some of these really capture the moment well. I mention all of these things only as very basic starting points, of course. Romania has loads of different traditions according to region, and if anyone reading this has any good information, I'd be very interested! Our time in Romania was thrilling and magical and I've been glad of the chance to reminisce a little while making my cards.
   I'll leave off with a photo of the side of a painted church and my best wishes for the holiday season.

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