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Family, Marriage & Gender Roles

Annual calendrical rituals associated with Lent, Easter and Christmas often assume traditional complementary gender roles, but you will see women and men relate to each other in a very different manner in regular life. For instance, men go courting women at their home and “water” women to encourage fertility in the weeks after Easter. During pilgrimages, men carry banners with pictures of villages’ patron saints on them while leading a procession from their local community. Women follow behind at the back of the procession. This division of labor seems to encourage men to take a lead role in their communities while women stay in the background.

Two wedding traditions special to Romanian Catholics include friends of the groom building a perec of pine poles and flowers to mark the groom's house, and a procession, “mennyasszony kikérés,” to call out the bride on the day of her wedding. This is a rowdy and laughter-filled affair, and the crowd enjoys interrupting the proceedings with cat-calls and ribald jokes.

Some younger Catholics will address their parents using the formal mode of address, but others do not. No one feels embarrassed about addressing their parents in this way; Catholics do not attribute this difference to a cultural or rural/urban divide, but rather to a simple personal preference. In contrast, other distinctively Catholic forms of address are associated with being more modern and urbane. Catholics in villages will often address the baptismal sponsors of one’s child — the child’s godparents — using a specific ritual title. Younger Catholics living in cities avoid using this title or use it mockingly to signal their modern attitudes.

Abortion is legal in most cases in Romania, in contrast to the socialist period when it was strictly controlled in an effort to boost a slowing birth rate and bolster the communist state’s control of everyday life. The memories of widespread suffering during the socialist period remain fresh in the minds of everyday Catholics. As a result, most Catholics prefer to keep quiet about this specific issue. They are also aware that in Poland, the Catholic Church’s active advocacy for strict controls on abortion has created controversy. As an ethnic and religious minority, Catholics in Romania sense that it is not to their benefit to take a strong stand on this particular “culture war” issue. Everyday Catholics also do not express strong opinions about the ordination of women.