POPLACA, Romania (AP) — Romanian villagers have burned used tires and lit fires in the Transylvanian hills in a ritual that marks the beginning of Orthodox Lent.
About 30 young residents gathered on a hill outside the village of Poplaca in the foothills of the Cindrel mountains, Sunday evening for the annual 'Clean Monday' ritual, which is designed to ward off evil spirits before the onset of Lent on Monday.
As night fell, teenagers spun around flaming old car tires attached to metal chains, and yelled the names of unmarried and divorced people in the community, in the hope of bringing them a partner. Children, some with faces blackened from the tires and soot, jumped over the tires.
Villagers ate bacon fat and zacusca, a bottled vegetable relish, to keep warm during the festivities in the village, about 315 kilometers (200 miles) northwest of Bucharest.
Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on May 1 this year, five weeks later than Western Christians. Monday marks the beginning of 40 days of abstention, when Orthodox Christians cut out meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
Clean Monday, also known as Pure Monday and Ash Monday traditionally begins on Sunday evening, and is seen as a the last opportunity for culinary excess and partying before Lent begins.