Autumn traditions in Romania – grape picking season

For Romanians, grape picking has been, since ancient times, an opportunity to celebrate and to give rein to some customs and superstitions. An ancient custom of the winegrowers in the vineyards of Buzău is that of crushing the grapes with their feet, by young and beautiful maidens. Others, on the first day of picking, give free grapes to the poor in order to have rich fruit in the coming year as well.

It is known that throughout the month of September, until the beginning of October, in certain areas of Romania, households are dedicated to picking vines, but also to the customs surrounding this occupation.

For winegrowers, September 14, the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, is a date with a special significance. This is the time when winegrowers start the grape picking season. Cross Day marks the beginning of the holiday known as Cârstovul or Ostrovul viilor, Viniţel or Viniceriu, an occasion of joy for everyone from the villages.

“In all Romanian households, the month of September is dedicated to grape picking. Moreover, popularly, the month of September is called La culesul viei, Winery or Vineyard. As wine is considered a sacred food, used in the church at the most important moments in human life (baptism, wedding, funeral, communion), its production still respects the traditions inherited from the ancestors”, writes Petruţa Pop, the author of a blog dedicated to traditions.

In many rural areas of the country, the winegrowers believe that they have the right to taste the fruit of the vineyards only after they take the first grapes to the church. On the Day of the Cross, the peasants who fast usually eat new walnut kernels and grapes, and only in the evening, after sunset, or the next day, do they start the celebrations.

Even if it no longer has the scale of the past, the picking is an important event in the life of the Romanian village, which gathers dozens of winegrowers armed with baskets, sacks and carts on the hills with vineyards. Grape picking is now an activity that the peasants carry out respecting certain local customs and superstitions.

In Pietroasele, in Buzău county, the commune where the Dealul Mare Vineyard stretches, the grape picking begins with the ritual of crushing the grapes by young women dressed in folk costumes. First, the village lads fill the winemaking vat with flavored grapes called Tamaioasa Romaneasca, the first picked this year. Then bridegrooms crush the bunches with their feet washed with spring water.

In the past, grape harvest celebrations started earlier. Once the harvest was over, the vineyards resounded day and night with shouts, gunshots and fiddlers’ songs. “Numerous fires lit up the hills showing in the darkness of the night the place where the party circles were grouped. Late, only in the morning towards daylight, the fires were dozing off, the dogs were beginning to calm down and the snare, the cobza or the violin could no longer be heard”, wrote I.C. Teodorescu in the study “Our Vineyards”, published in 1935.