This site is an outcome of the Comenius 2008-2010 multilateral project "European Journey Through Legends".

"Becoming more European does not mean forgetting our national cultural heritage, but sharing it with other European nation".

The Maiden Fair on Găina Mountain

Saint Ilie day traditions

The Romanian Orthodox Church celebrates prophet Ilie on July 20. One of the most important prophets in the Old Testament, Saint Ilie is celebrated as a miracle worker and the one that brings rain during a drought period.

His name comes from the Jewish Elijah, which translates as ‘Whose God is Jah(ve)’, and from the Greek and Latin Elias. In Arabic, the same name is Ilias.

The Romanian tradition labels Saint Ilie as the guardian of crops. It is the popular belief than when it rains with thunders and other spectacular meteorological phenomenons on Saint Ilie’s day, the saint is crossing the skies with his chariot of fire, to protect the living.

According to statistics, there are 120,000 Romanians who celebrate their name day on July 20 (out of a total of around 22 million inhabitants).

It is on Saint Ilie that Romanian peasants are supposed to take the first apple and grape crops and when bee keepers harvest honey for the first time during the year. This day marks the middle of the summer for shepherds, who would come down from the sheep yards to villages for the first time during the year.

The Maiden Fair on Găina Mountain

This is also the period of time when a traditional event takes place in Alba county, on Găina Mountain, in the Apuseni Mountains, a tradition going back two centuries ago. It is called the "Maidens Fair on the Găina mountain" ("târgul de Fete de pe Muntele Găina"), which resides in a traditional matchmaking for young maiden looking for husbands. They would come with their parents and they would display their dower in hand-painted wooden hope chests. The fair also includes a sale of traditional products, like agricultural tools, as well as a banquet with Romanian folk music. The maiden Fair was registered by the Alba county as a trade mark.


Somewhere, a long time ago, both people and gods were sharing the sky and the land, the light and the darkness, the joy and the pain. That is why, up there, at the foot of the clouds, below the holy tear of the sunrise, rolled like a cup of gems over the face of the Mountain which is guarding a bunch of wooden, bricked and stoned houses, lived the “mountaineers”, living pillars of the blue sky wrapping in snow its hidden paths, the roads, the valleys, the woods, with their small horses. There, a small hen had its shelter, making golden eggs and all the “mountaineers” were wondering and wondering and they started to protect her and to devote to thoughts , deeds and songs.

For their golden egg hen they could kill and she was safe from one season to another. Only once a year the “mountaineers” could see her face, her lonely and enigmatical image with her wings open over the vastness.

On the day of the St. Ilie the “mountaineers” were gathering like the rivers in the same bed to tell each other their problems, their hopes and dreams, to offer their children a chance to meet, to fall in love and to propose their hearts to join forever, in marriage. The hen used to descend from her unseen shelter placed on the top of the Mountain. She used to approach the young ones and waving her wings ones she turned into a charming goddess which was approaching the newly married couples with a golden egg in her hands, offering it for happiness and long life. Both people and Mountain were applauding, praying and giving thanks. In the sound of their applause the goddess raised her hands to the sky and turned back into a Hen, hiding herself from the mortals eyes. So the seasons found them, thus starting a habit of faith and love. That’s why, that proud mountain who’s peaks are covered with white clouds, in a height of more then 1500 m was named and forever will be, “The Găina Mountain”.

But the peace, quite and harmony was broken by thoughtless eyes who have forever been trying to discover the nest of the golden Hen and to steal her golden eggs. And finally, with evil’s help, they succeeded. The hen had left her shelter for another festival, on the shoulder of another mountain, having as a purpose the peace of mind of the inhabitants, and some unexpected visitors together with that ruthless man violently searching the nest took the eggs, hid them under his shirt and ran away.

Coming back home and discovering the theft, the goddess was very unhappy and with bitter heart she decided to leave the place forever. She rose her hands high up in the sky, turned into a hen and flew, unseen, to another mountain. And that mountain was at Rosia Montana.

The people mourned her, bagged her to go back to them but the miracle did not happened. Gaina mountain remained behind with barren peaks, haunted by rains, wild winds and snows, by tears and legends. People come to meet the mountain as often as they can, hoping they will be able to tame, to quench its patience, harmony and longing.

They say, the thief that had stolen the eggs fell into a deep strait and the eggs were lost into the depth. They become springs of water or torrents – the crack can be seen today covered by clouds. The Apuseni Mountains and the people living there have been suffering ever since.

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