Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Girl Fair of Mount Gaina

Near Mount Gaina you’ll witness one of the most interesting traditions of Romania: the Gaina Girl Fair, taking place each year in the Sunday closest to July 20. Known as "targul de fete", this is the greatest outdoor holiday of the country and it hosts the greatest traditional song and dance groups from Romania.

The history of this celebration was lost in the mist of time, but Mount Gaina was mentioned by Strabon, "the father of geography", who claimed that Dacians had a "cogaiom" mountain near their capital, Sarmisegetuza, where they made their sacrifices. Gaina is probably the peak where Dacians invoked their Gods and offered them such sacrifices. The girl fair is first mentioned officially in 1816 with people from all over Romania taking part in it, specially those from the Bihor, Aries and dwelling near the river Crisul Alb. They’ll exchange traditional products, like food or clothing and have a good time singing old songs and taking part in dances. This place is not only a symbol of Dacian traditions, but also one of the landmarks of the local "gold rush", as the precious metal seemed to have been widespread in this area. Christian tradition placed this holiday in the second decade of July, so it'll be close to the celebration of Saint Ilie. The girl fair of Mount Gaina also has economical reasons, like the need of buying or selling various products, including girls, but only symbolically. The festivities of the girl fair take place in a beautiful local forest, surrounded by fir trees and situated at 1467 metres altitude. There's also a romantic and ethnic motivation of the fair, as young people who live in very remote regions get together in this celebration, meet each other and sometimes fall in love and get married. In the past, girls would arrive at the fair with their dowry on their horses and the marriage was done on the spot by priests who came to mount Gaina for this purpose alone.

Today, the Mount Gaina fair is just a great local celebration, which takes a couple of days of preparation. It starts with the "tulnicarese" group of Avram Iancu, followed by various artistic programmes, which last till night kicks in. Among the dances on Mount Gaina there are the passionate "tropotite" played by mocani or "tarina", a dance for pairs and the most famous of locals, also known as "moti". There are variations of this dance, as, for example, the Abrud tarina is played elegantly and slowly with wide arm movements, lots of walking around and spinning the girl underneath the man's hand. For tourists, the fair is the perfect place to buy unique local products, like musical instruments, wooden vases, ceramic ornaments, wooden tools or clothing items and culinary products.

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