Sânziene in Washington, DC – Back Then and Today…

by Sandra Bărbulescu

One of the most important celebrations of our Romanian community in Washington, DC is the Universal Day of the Romanian Blouse – Washington, DC. The day, marked each year on June 24, was officially recognized by Mayor Muriel Bowser in 2015 as the Day of the Romanian Folk Costume in the Nation’s Capital. It is set to coincide with a much more ancient Romanian celebration – “Sânziene” (fairies). Etymologically, the name comes from the Latin Sancta Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt and moon, also celebrated in Roman Dacia (ancient Romania) testifying to the ancient origin of this celebration.

Ruxi Bărbulescu – The Fairy Godmother

Sandra (Ruxi) Bărbulescu, a Washington, DC based photographer and lawyer born in Bucharest, Romania, spent every summer as a child in Argeș county, where she first learned about the Sânziene. She remembers how she and her friends literally went roaming in the fields as children picking flowers and dreams as kids in Argeș. She moved to the U.S. as a child, to Texas, where she learned about cowboys and American culture, but she never forgot her roots, or about the summers in Romania. Sandra studied International Relations at Boston University, Photography and Spanish Literature and Law at Cornell Law School. She currently resides in Washington, DC where she practices international criminal law for the U.S. federal government, has a small photography business, and teaches beginner Romanian language at The Global Language Network Network.

Below is her story of how she celebrated the Sânziene here in the Nation’s Capital!


“Back in photography school, I was assigned a project to make a short video of photographs that told a special story to me. One of my favorite legends in Romania, my birthplace, is the Night of the Sânziene, the mid-summer solstice celebration. As many Romanians know, not only is it a beautiful legend, but it is deeply ingrained in our culture and traditions.

You can learn more about Sânziene in this short video.

In brief, the “Sânziene” or “Zâne” are fairies who are said to visit for mid-summer solstice and bless the villagers’ crops so they are bountiful that year. It is a pagan holiday, celebrating the Earth, fertility, and the power of the female spirit. But, unlike other holidays, it also has a magical component. The Sânziene roam the fields that night and stop to laugh and dance in the woods. Young girls make offerings to the Sânziene into the river late at night, to meet their fated one (called “Ursitul”). If the Sânziene like the offering, the maiden will dream of their Ursitul, marry him that year, and have an everlasting happy life together. This legend had fascinated me since I was a little girl. One day in 2009, I ended up in the beautiful Valea Zânelor (“Fairies’ Valley)”, around Covasna, Transylvania, for a wedding of a dear friend. The whole area felt like the mischievous fairies could sneak out at any moment to greet us. Ever since then, I’ve been looking for a way to express my fascination with this cherished tradition of my birth country.

The Sânziene dancing the ”hora.”


Finally, I found a way to bring it to life through photography, but in a more modern way. I gathered some of my favorite friends at a national park in Washington, DC and diversified the story and their outfits. Our group had fairies of various faiths and ethnicities, from African and Asian to Jewish, Latina and white. I also included a Romanian woman, to capture the ultimate modern fairy with her authentic energy. But despite these fairies’ slightly modernized gowns, the beautiful range of their skin colors, they projected confidence and the strength of the female bonds like the Sânziene. The underlying story didn’t change. It just grew richer. All women, of all colors and ages, are Fairies in their own right. There is a little magic in all of us.

Mischivious Sânziene / Fairies wearing the “coronița” (yellow flowers crown).

We had so much fun on this project. All my Fairies dressed up in beautiful gowns, walked to a sunny park, laughed a lot, danced the traditional “hora” (Romanian traditional circle dance) and celebrated life as the enchanted Sânziene for that day. It was one of my most memorable Washington, DC days, mostly because I was able to share a piece of this special tradition with my American and international friends. And to this day, the Fairies call me the Fairy Godmother. The passers-by were so taken with the project that they also participated, as you will see in the video. I will also add, be it a gimmick or not, that at least three of the Fairies in the video met or married their Ursitul that year!

The Fairies / Sânziene sharing secrets and contemplating who will meet their ”Ursitul.”

The Night of Sânziene is a celebration of all magical women in the world: their beauty, their confidence, the power of their intention, no matter the challenges that may surround us. The night varies depending on the Sun, but it typically falls on the night of the summer solstice. This year, the Night of Sânziene is June 24, 2020. It also happens to be the birthday of my little brother! I hope you enjoy the video and learn or be reminded about this magical Romanian tradition, the night of the Sânziene, when anything is possible.

The Sânziene take a break and bless the fields and the Earth.

Be Enchanted on June 24, 2020!”


Sânziană making a wish.