“Sânziene” – Summer Fairies of Romania

Traditional Costume, Maramures

“Sânziene” - Summer Fairies of Romania

Traditions on Midsummer Day

The midsummer celebrations are popular across European countries, especially in the North. This is because the longest day of the year was always connected to magic creatures and rituals intended to ensure a prosperous life and good health for people.

In Romania, Sânziene, or the Midsummer Fairies, are celebrated on June 24th. They represented one of the most important holidays in the popular calendar long before the country was Christianized. The celebration originates in the cult of the goddess Diana, and it evolved as a flower festival.  

It can be easily compared to the Swedish Midsummer holiday, and it is believed to be a pagan celebration of the summer solstice in June.

This celebration in Romania crossed the villages' borders and entered the cities' cultural life. It gained such popularity that we think it would not harm to learn more about these mystical fairies, their role in people’s lives, and the traditions and customs related to the summer solstice.

Biertan, Transylvania, Romania

Sânziene” - The Summer Fairies of Romania

In Romania, the Summer Fairies are associated with the Green World, the space of enchanted forests and meadows where reality is suspended, and anything can happen. They are said to be priestesses of the God of the Sun, good fairies who protect the crops, forest, and farm animals, heal people's sufferings, and promote fertility.

People named them after the honey-scented summer wildflower Sânziana (Lady’s bedstraw), to gain their goodwill. The yellow color of the flower symbolizes the triumph of sunlight over darkness. After all, it is the longest day of the year.  

Did you know?

According to the English name, “Lady’s bedstraw,” these dried plants were used to stuff mattresses, as the scent of the plants acted as a flea repellant. These mattresses were used mainly by women about to give birth. The flowers were also used to coagulate milk in cheese manufacture and, in Gloucestershire, to color the cheese double Gloucester.

People imagined the Sânziene as stunning girls who lived and danced in the woods or plains. They gave special powers to flowers and plants so that they became medicinal plants around the celebration on June 24.

The celebration of the summer fairies is considered holy: no one can work on this day. Otherwise, the fairies will turn into destructive forces. So they punish the sinners, start storms out of the blue, and bring hail, leaving the field without crops.

Traditions on Midsummer Day in Romania

In Romania, many customs dedicated to love, health, and abundance are connected to this holiday.

So, it goes like this: young girls dress in white and spend the day searching for and picking flowers up, among which there must also be the Lady’s bedstraw, locally named “Sânziana.” Eventually, they use the flowers to braid floral crowns, which they wear while returning to the village at nightfall. There, they meet with their beloved ones and dance around a bonfire.

Finally, the flower crowns are thrown on the roofs of the houses. If the crown remained on the roof, the girl would get married that very year. But, if it fell off the roof, the girl would throw it repeatedly until the crown remained up. Thus, the girl would know how many more years she had to wait to get married finally. 

According to another tradition, women went to the woods and meadows to pick up medicinal plants and flowers. Then, they took the plants to the church to be consecrated by the priest. Back home, these plants were used to treat various ailments or diseases. Sometimes, women used them even for various magical rituals. 

Maybe the most well-known custom is when young girls placed a crown of Sânziene flowers under their pillow on June 23rd. It was said that on that night, each girl would dream of her future lover. Moreover, it is believed that on Sânziene Eve night, the Gates of Heaven are open, which makes it the strongest night for all forms of magic – especially love spells.

People of Maramures, Romania

June 24 - Two holidays in one day

The Romanian Blouse represents the most beloved part of the traditional costume. Furthermore, it was reinvented and adapted to today’s fashion trends in recent years. As a result, Romanian women started to wear them more often and not only on special celebrations. We dedicated an entire article about this topic on our travel blog here. 

As a symbol of femininity, the Romanian Blouse started to be celebrated on the same day as the “Sânziene” - The Summer Fairies of Romania.

After all, who could better wear the delicate Romanian blouse if not the “Sânziene” fairies? So, on this day, a yellow flower crown and a Romanian blouse are just what you need to join the celebration. This is the perfect example of how traditions can evolve and bring together old and new generations in a fun and magical way.  

Traditional costumes in Maramures area

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Valentina Marinescu

Travel is my first name. If my passion for traveling involves a bike, it's even better. And if the day ends with a good book and a dry red glass of wine, then I live in a paradise.

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