Without realizing it beforehand, we recently participated in Chișinău’s biggest public holiday. To give you some context, Chișinău has a lot of holidays. There is Marțișor, International Women’s Day, three different Easters, Victory Day, Europe Day, Language Day, Children’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s, Wine Day – and the list goes on.
Now to be fair, not all of these holidays are celebrated to quite the same extent in the public sphere. But it seems that every holiday calls for at least some kind of music concert or booth set-up or something. So when “City Day” rolled around, we figured it was going to be another small affair that somehow would still lead to road closures in the center of the city.
Boy were we mistaken.
A little about City Day itself
City Day is not unique to Chișinău. From what I understand, every city (every large village in fact), has a public holiday to celebrate their city. Students don’t have school on that day, instead they join adults in celebrating traditional music and food. I think this practice originated during the Communist Era, but I might be mistaken.
In any case, Chișinău celebrates its city day on October 14th. And like I said, we didn’t have high expectations going in to it. But we boarded a trolleybus anyway and made our way downtown to check it out.
What we found
This was by far the biggest public celebration we have seen in Moldova. It was much bigger than Independence Day and much more public than Christmas celebrations. The main street in Chișinău (Stefan cel Mare Boulevard) was closed for more than a mile. And that entire mile held stand upon stand upon stand of all types of good things.
We saw wine galore, local arts and crafts, carnival type games, fried meats, concert stands, pony rides, etc, etc. Despite being there in the morning as things were just beginning, people already were crowding the sidewalks. I heard from people who went later in the day that the crowds were enormous.
My favorite parts
The overall party atmosphere was infectious. Like I said, some of the celebrations in Chișinău border on just a tad sad – either the booths or the number of visitors seem lackluster. But this one was bustling and electric and fun. It truly did make you feel a bit of the Chișinău pride….which I guess is the whole point of the holiday.
This short clip from the song “Chișinău meu iubit” sums it up fairly well.
Chișinău oraș de dor
Ești frumos și te ador
Ești frumos și te ador măi
Da Chișinau oraș de vis
Eu în inimă te-am scris
Eu în inimă te-am scris măi
Which means: Chișinău, city of desire, you are beautiful and I love you, you are beautiful and I love you. Yes, Chișinău city of dreams, I wrote you in my heart, I wrote you in my heart.
So Daniel and I drank some coffee, ate some pastries, did some people watching and generally had a really good time. In fact, while watching groups perform traditional dances and songs, I felt little heart pangs for a country that’s not really my own.