Doina

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How you doina?

Just kidding.

I do a fair amount of scouring YouTube for music in the Romanian language. It helps me learn the language and sometimes I find a jewel hidden in between all the manele.

When I found Doina, I was kind of shocked that I had never heard about it before. It seems to be a very important part of Romanian folk tradition and heritage of the people. You would think that someone would’ve mentioned it (or maybe I would have seen mention of it somewhere!), but for whatever reason, I had to discover it on my own. Perhaps I’ve been hearing it all along, and I just never realized it 🙂

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Doina is a type of traditional Romanian music. The improvisational style of Doina melodies is what makes it so beautiful; they are the expression of the melancholy soul and its longing (dor).

There are different kinds of Doina: the songs of shepherds and peasants, drinking songs, lullaby, outlaws, and perhaps one more familiar to American audiences, klezmer. Yes, klezmer music is descendant from the Doina music form (don’t forget that until the 1930s, Romania had a population of over 750,000 Jews). Doinas can be sung without accompaniment, with simple instruments such as flute or even a leaf (!), or enhanced with multiple instruments like violin or accordion.

In 2009, UNESCO added Doina to its list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity“.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite Doina songs so far:

Doina Oltului (instrumental):

 

Doina Basarabia (instrumental):

 

Doina din Wallachia (instrumental):

 

Outlaw’s Doina (Doina haiduceasca):

 

Doina din Maramureș by the lovely Maria Tanase

 

Lullaby Doina (again by Maria Tanase!)

 

Doina Klezmer:

 

Doina de Jale (of grief):

 

Argatu’ also has a Doina de Jale for a more modern take:

 

Perhaps my most favorite modern Doina of all, from Subcarpati (of course):

Mărțișor în România

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Even doggies get the winter blues

Last year, I was in America for the Mărțișor holiday. I received a red and white bracelet with a lovely card in the mail. I wore the bracelet until the end of March, and then I tied it to a flowering tree in the hopes it would bring me good luck. Thankfully, it did – and I like to think the Mărțișor luck was the cause 🙂

In Romania, Mărțișor is the first day of spring. Technically, they are correct because March 1st is the first day of meteorological spring. Indeed, it feels like someone flipped the switch here from winter to spring.

 

We went from negative temperatures to consistently having days reaching 15c. Which, if you have just spent the last two months hibernating in temperatures as low as -20c, makes it feel like SPRING (all caps). Seriously, it is such a change.

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My handmade Martisor and beautiful snowdrop flowers

The holiday itself is very popular here. There is a big market for Mărțișor, the red and white strings usually made into jewelry. Everywhere you go, they are selling these things. People set up tables on the sidewalk to sell them. I discovered that there is an expectation for the men to buy all the women in their lives one of these trinkets. Only in some parts of Romania (Moldova) do the women purchase them for the men.

I received several of these sweet trifles – one from my sweetheart and a few from family and friends. It’s a sweet reminder that people are thinking of you. They also want you to receive the benefits of the magical Mărțișor – the red and white strings represent the transition of winter (white) into spring (red). Some people say that the colors represent life and victory or passion and wisdom. It really depends on who you ask.

At any rate, you must wear it through the month and then tie it to the branch of a flowering tree. This will ensure that the new year will be a lucky and bountiful one for the wearer.

Other symbols of Mărțișor holiday include the ghiocel (in English, snowdrop) flower. It’s usually the first flower you see at the beginning of spring. It pushes its way up through the snow and greets you when the snow finally melts. Right now, you can see these little pretties everywhere. We have a bunch out behind our bloc.

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Some lovely backyard flowers (left) and Ghiocei (far right)

One last cool March tradition that I want to mention are the Zilele Babelor (Baba Days – where Baba = The Old Woman). Baba is an old woman from Romanian folklore. Her days are the first nine days of March. Your Baba day is the day of your birth (my birthday easy because it’s the 8th, so March 8th is my Baba day. If your birthday is the 14th, you add 1+4 = 5, so your Baba day is the 5th of March). On this day, you check out the weather and the weather forecasts your year. If the weather is crappy on your Baba day, well, that’s just Baba. She can be a cranky old lady.