Splashing those that are called Ion with water from Tălmăcel, unique tradition in Romania

“Udatul Ionilor” (translated as “Splashing those that are called Ion with water”) is a custom passed from generation to generation in Tălmăcel village, which is still being celebrated every year.

On St. John the Baptist’s Day, right at dawn, the whole village is raging with joy. After the religious service, a procession starts towards the river, procession composed of young men on horseback bearing flags, kids and youngsters dressed in traditional costumes, an allegorical chariot pulled by oxen decorated with fabric and beads and further behind, donkeys carrying an old man and old woman made of straw.

Once they arrive at the river, the young men start to recite traditional saying and to wet all those bearing the name “John”, one by one. In order to forget the cold outside, the wet Johns are rewarded with cake, wine and brandy. The celebration then continues on the narrow streets of the village with traditional songs and dances, specific to the area.

“Udatul Ionilor” became a truly spectacular celebration that transmits a small part of the village’s joy and excitement.

It is said that the water from the place where the ceremony happens never freezes, no matter how cold the winter is. Old Documents state that the desire to include the procession of horses and oxen belonged to villagers forced to leave and join the Emperor’s army in Vienna. They also state that well before 1906 (the year this custom started), on the spot where house number 287 still exists, there was a small tavern that villagers called “The Pantry”, where they all gathered to celebrate St. John’s Day with their friends.

The significance of the 100 year old custom

From the 1,270 residents of Tălmăcel village, about 200 people are called Ion, Ioan, and their derivatives. The oldest John is 86 years old and the youngest is only 5 months old. The “Udatul Ionilor” tradition has been respected religiously in Tălmăcel for more than 100 years. “Here, on December 6, groups of young men gather and rehearse their caroling. On the 7th of January this event takes place, event that has lasted for more than 100 years. Its meaning is related a little to the Epiphany, when we all know that the waters are sanctified. The tradition of the horse parade dates from Austro-Hungarian times: in December 1918 some of the village’s citizens participated in the Great Unification at Alba Iulia. They came back by train and mounted horses upon their arrival in Tălmăcel. Because they were not able to celebrate this great event (due to fasting), they postponed the feast until the 7th of January and they paired it with “Udatul Ionilor”. The oxen chariot is an allegorical car that appeared in the meantime, used to carry the bands” Constantin Barbu, mayor of Tălmaciu, declares. He recalls that during his childhood, he was sent to wash in the ice cold water in order to purify himself. “I remember that on the day of the Epiphany, my parents used to send me to the river, naked, with nothing on me but a sheet and I had to get wet in order to be purified. Water is a tool of our spiritual purification” the mayor adds.

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