Ziua Cucilor

The main attraction in the village of Branesti is its annual folklore festival.

The Cuckoos’ custom is an old tradition, having pre-Christian roots, first mentioned in old church documents starting from the 17th century – “The Lives of the Saints” Dosoftei Mitropolitul.

Branesti is a village and area in Ilfov County, it is situated right east of the capital.
In Branesti you will find quiet village roads, industrial areas and some of the oldest monasteries in Romania. But in the spring time something special happens here, residents and visitors celebrate Ziua Cucilor.

This folklore festival gathers thousands of participants and and spectators every year. Now the local government wanted to preserve this event through documentation for future generations. The traditions of agrarian communities are disappearing fast, so keeping Ziua Cucilor alive was the goal of this project.

Project PromotorStatusEnd
Local Government of Branesti, Romania.Concluded2015

Taking part in the Ziua Cucilor festival was my first real visit to Romania, impressions were many and the seed was sown for my long-lasting relation with this country. The journey from the centre of Bucharest to the quiet village of Branesti was in itself a display of the sharp contrasts you will find in Romania.

Visiting the monasteries and historical sights of the area I started to see the similarities with Norway. Most people in Romania can trace their roots back to traditional rural farmlife with very few steps. In Oslo, Norways capital, we often remark that everyone in the city hails from somewhere else, somewhere rural. Whether it was southern Calarasi, western Gorj or northern Maramures, they were all represented at Ziua Cucilor. This exposition of crafts, music and colors from all regions of Romania celebrate the rural superstitions and values. A significant influx of Bulgarians arrived to take part in the event, showing that folklore traditions run across borders. This rite of spring celebrates fertility as well as bringing people together for a traditional meal and festive drink!

Church in Branesti
 , 1937 by Petre Dumitrescu

Strong, bright colors compete with the rhythmic rattle of the bells calling for the arrival of spring

The processions in Ziua Cucilor are remnants of traditions that go far back, to a time when theatre and processions formed a vital bond between citizens of ancient societies.

Augusto Boal, who founded the Theatre of the Oppressed, was critical of the development of drama where actors and audience was separated. Instead, he emphasized the collective unity that theatre can be. He pointed to the Dithyrambic processions from ancient Greece as an ideal, as these were also the origins of western theatre. Like the people now parading through the streets of Branesti, the ancient Greeks were invested in a narrative shared by their fellow citizens.

Dithyrambic procession