Ah yes, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, winter is over and so begins one of Romania’s great holidays – First May.
Everywhere around the world, except in the United States (anymore – a long time ago it was), the first day of May is known as International Workers’ Day, kind of a day where everybody gets off of work and sometimes holds marches or protests or generally those sorts of things.
Back in the Communist days in Romania, May 1 was a huge holiday – not only did everyone get off work but there were lots of long-winded speeches and rallying cries rallied and slogans sloganeered and motivational posters plastered everywhere and that sort of thing. Communism was all (allegedly) about the proletariat aka the workers, so ideologically May 1 was the most important day of the year.
Nowadays in Romania it’s an entirely “secular” sort of holiday. The stores are almost all closed, there’s no school or government offices open and everyone and their brother heads to the beach. The water is still far too cold to go swimming but this year, especially since May 1 is on a Saturday, the beaches will be crammed from one end to the other with people drinking, dancing, grilling food and listening to music.
The 10% of the country which doesn’t go to the beach heads for somewhere in a rural outdoor settings to conduct similar merry-making. I myself was invited out to a countryside spot in Bihor but due to some AHEM *coughcough* ethical entanglements, I’m probably not going to go. I asked the guy who invited me if there was going to be any slanina and onions and he looked at me as if I were insane and said, “Of course!” It’s practically mandatory, don’t ya know.
The winters in Romania can be kind of long but pretty much every year by the time May 1 rolls around the days are warm and summer is just around the corner so it really works out well to have a nice day off, head out to somewhere in the country or on the seaside, hang out with friends and grill some food.
If you’re thinking of coming to Romania as a tourist, May 1 is really when the “good weather” season kicks off so head on over!
Note: Romanians use a very unique way of saying dates. For example today would be “30 April” in Romanian as they say just the cardinal numbers. In English today with be April 30th meaning the thirtieth day of April while Romanians just say “thirty”.
The one exception is the FIRST day of the month, which in Romanian is intai, literally meaning “first”. They don’t say second, third, fourth, etcetera (aka ordinal numbers) but they always say “first”.
Therefore, in Romanian, this holiday is known as Intai Mai, literally “First May”, which is how you’ll often hear Romanians “translate” into English as well.
NOW YOU KNOW!