San’ Toader’s Horses

By Andrei Harnagea

In this article I will tell about a custom from Huși, Vaslui county. My parents come from the countryside, which made me grow up more with my grandparents, in the village where they come from.

At the beginning of spring it was a tradition to go to my grandparents, to spend the first warm days in the countryside. One of the holidays I fondly remember is Saint Toader, or, as my grandmother used to call it, Sân’Toader.

Saint Toader was a great Christian martyr who was killed for his faith in Christ. He is honored for a miracle performed 50 years after his death, advising the Christians left without provisions not to buy the poisoned food in the market, but wheat boiled with honey: coliva.

Saint Toader falls on the first Saturday of Easter Lent. The Easter fast is considered to be the longest and harshest of all the four major fasts of the year, lasting 40 days.

The women make a wheat hut and remembering note with the dead dear ones and go to church on Saturday morning. After the service on Saint Toader, the priests read the hymns and the women share the hut for the dead. It is said that when part of the coliva is preserved and eaten over the year it protects you from colds.

Another tradition that I remember with great admiration is the horse races. The owners “beautify” their horses, cutting their forehead hair, braiding their hair and tails. The most beautiful horse is chosen. On this day, the lads mount horses and compete in memory of Saint Toader’s horses, running after the sun.

Saint Toader is also a day expected by girls. Mothers who have girls braid their hair and recite a poem to them three times: “Toadere, Sân Toadere, make the girl’s tail the same as the mare’s tail. The mare is like a beam, the girl is like a wire.”, imitating the horse’s stalking gestures. The girls part their hair with a parting in the middle, a sign that they can be invited by the boys to the village dance.

Work is prohibited on this day. Washing clothes is considered a great sin. Also, relatives should not argue, so as not to have a year full of troubles, and parents should spend more time with the little ones.

For me, Saint Toader is a holiday full of memories with the family. It is a day when I contemplate the traditions of the small village where my grandparents came from and how they could be passed down so far with so much respect.