Where my family is from, they say, “If it had been a snake, it would have bit you!” This day came, and I didn’t realize it. I knew when I was living in Romania that toward the first part of the year, they celebrated Saint John’s Day, but I wasn’t sure exactly which day because I don’t have a Romanian calendar here with me in S. Korea. I decided to look it up on the internet, and I got confused because several sites were saying Saint John’s Day was in June, but I knew in Romania they didn’t celebrate John the Baptist in June. From what I understand, the Catholics celebrate his birthday in June because it is 6 months away from Christmas, and the Bible is clear that he and Jesus were born 6 months apart. However, the Romanians celebrate his birthday on January 7th in Transylvania where I lived for several years. I was right. It is at the first part of the year, but it passed, and I didn’t realize it because I was thinking about the hard core Orthodox in Romania celebrating Christmas on January 7th and my dad’s birthday on the 7th. John the Baptist Day is also on the 7th of January in Romania.
In Romania, they have a thing called “name day.” This is similar to birthdays. Every person in Romania wants to have their own patron saint. They often put up plaques in the offices or houses with their saint on them. They are proud to have the same name as that saint. You congratulate them on the day it is their “name day.” There are many names in Romania that mean John: Ioana, Ioan, Ionuti, etc. etc. These people could be in big trouble on their name day.
You see, I was actually pretty lucky because I taught writing at the university, and one of the assignments I gave my students was to write about a Romanian holiday, and I learned a lot of interesting things about Romanian holidays. I learned from my students that on Saint John’s Day, they go through the village and find everyone who is named John, or some derivative thereof, they physically take them from their homes and take them to the river and throw them in the river. After all, John the Baptist spent his time baptizing people in the Jordan River.
However, Romania is a very, very cold country. In fact, January 7th is a very cold day in many places around the world. Can you imagine people grabbing you and carrying you to the river in the dead of winter when snow is on the ground and throwing you in? I am thankful my name is not Ioana! Transylvania is known for Dracula, but I know it for so much more. It is a place of holidays. The calendar is full, and the people are always celebrating! My neighbor told me that if she didn’t go to work on every holiday on the Romanian calendar, she would never go to work. That would be fun! In fact, Romanians really know how to party, and spend a lot of time doing it. They are a very happy people, and John the Baptist Day is just one more day they are out having a good time.