Ziua Cucilor

Ziua Cucilor

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” written by Dosoftei Mitropolitul.

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

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

My knowledge of Romanian spring rites was scarce, but when I was taken around monasteries and historical sights I started to see the similarities with Norway. Most people in Romania can trace their roots back to the traditional rural farmlife with very few steps. Wheather it was southern Calarasi, western Gorj or northern Maramures, they are 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 arrive to take part in the event, showing that folklore traditions run deeper than borders and flags. 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

The village of Branesti is host to a number of secondary educational schools for the Illfov County, among them a school for foresters. Thats why you will also find the teacher training centre called Casa Corpului Didactic here. The institution is a resource centre that provides additional courses and support for staff from the whole county. My background from drama education attracted me to this arena, what would they think about using drama in education?

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

As a partner in the project of documenting and developing the Ziua Cucilor ( Cucu’s day ), I wanted to focus on the roots of these traditions and how the public procession could relate to people now. In 2015 I held a number of workshops in Forum Theatre for teachers and students at the CCD. Drama is a powerful way to engage students in topics that otherwise seem dead and of little relevans to them, such as history. But most of all drama teaches us to be more expressive and emphatic in our interactions with other people. 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 Forum Theatre method, 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