Koliva (“colivă” in Romanian language) is a cake prepared for funerals and mourning ceremonies. It is a sweet mixture of cooked wheat and nuts, often flavored with cinnamon and vanilla. The origin of the koliva cake can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome, where it was served as a symbol of rebirth and immortality. In Romania, it is considered a comforting and caring food that is meant to bring solace to the bereaved.
Koliva is prepared by boiling wheat in water until it is soft, and then adding sugar (or honey) and almonds or walnuts to the mixture. In some recipes, dried fruit such as raisins or apricots are also added, providing an additional layer of sweetness and flavor.
Once the mixture is ready, it is shaped into a circle or a shape resembling a grave. The entire cake is covered with powdered sugar or grated coconut, and the initials of the deceased are drawn on top with cocoa. At the beginning of the mourning ceremony, a candle is lit, usually placed in the center of the koliva.
After the end of the mourning ceremony, groups of people can often be seen outside churches, distributing food from the ceremony to guests or the poor, as this food should be eaten together with others. I had the opportunity to taste koliva in front of one of the many churches in Iași.