2 August: Celebration of two different traditions
There’s a feast that the Roma people celebrate on the 2nd of August : “o Pascia Milaj” . This celebration has two different traditions and two different names: for the Muslims, it is Lalija, and for the Orthodox it is Ilija. Two feasts are celebrated on the same day: Alidun for the former, and Lindan for the latter. By tradition, Lilindan day begins in the morning and lasts until midday, while Alindun begins at midday and ends at midnight. This is why that day the Roma people use to repeat: “Until midday Ilia, from midday on Alid”. It is necessary to respect the times of the two customs without superposing one feast to the other, mostly because the two feasts are connected with two different religions. It is important to respect the other’s feast and to be mutually tolerant.
Alidun and Ilindan are associated to the cult of the thunder, of the sun and of the rain. For the Roma people, this feast indicates the turning day of the summer period: midsummer, and it has a particular meaning. In fact, in the past it was a way to meet people that one had not seen for a long time. People met in the same village, in a place by a river or a lake, and they narrated what had happened during the year: if there had been a marriage, or a birth, or a baptism in the family. Everyone had a fire lit in front of their dwelling, and people talked or sang around the fire; it was like an invitation for the others to stop.
Everyone cooked food in abundance in case of unexpected visits. “O Pascia Milaj” is celebrated still today, even if in a different version: for example, it is no longer necessary to travel to reach a place, since we are all in the camp. Preparations start at the dawn of the 2nd of August, when people begin to organize the great feast. While waiting for everything to be ready, there is a custom that the master of the house goes to see his neighbors and that the neighbors do the same. In these circumstances, drinks and tastes of one’s best dishes are offered. When everything is ready, someone of the family is sent to call the neighbors and invite them to sit at their table. When the guests arrive, the table must be already laid. So everyone can eat and stay together and no one has to serve the others. Between a bite and a toast, the music starts and the dances begin.
By interviewing various elderly people, I came to know that the rituals of this feast vary according to the ethnic group that celebrates it; but the importance of this celebration remains the same for all the Roma people: that is to say, it is an occasion to get together the whole family. Some young Roma people from Rome that I interviewed told me that the 2nd of August 2013 they were not home to celebrate Pascia Milaj because they had taken part in the commemoration of the Roma genocide, “dik i na bistar”, promoted by a network of young ternYpe. They had been to Poland, where they learnt what happened on the 2nd of August 1944 in the concentration camps, the same day when some Roma people stood up saying to each other : « Bathalo cio give (wishes)». But that day everybody had been exterminated in the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Now for these young people the 2nd of August is not only “Pascia Milaj”, but also the day in which it is necessary to remember and to make people remember what had happened on that unforgettable date.