In Romania, Christmas is celebrated from mid-December all the way to the 7th of January. Christmas in Romania is a unique experience. Ancient customs and traditions are piously kept to countryside celebrations and the more urban areas have started adopting western customs and cultures such as decorating Christmas trees, waiting for Santa Claus and caroling. The customs that existed way before Christianity came into existence overlaps the traditions that have stemmed from Christianity. The perfect blend of 'old' and 'new' is what makes Christmas in Romania a magical one. Apart from Christmas Day itself, there are a variety of other Christmas holidays that follow the festival consecutively. 'Niculas Day' or Saint Nicholas Day is also celebrated on the 6th of December. For Romanians, Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus are perceived as two different characters, but are the main gift-givers in Romania. Ignat Day, Christmas Eve, Epiphany Day and finally ends with Saint John's Day. Apart from the traditional festivities, a lot of importance is given to the Christmas feast. Scroll down for more information.
Customs, Traditions And Celebration
The Period Of Advent
The seven week Advent, where people get together and wait for the birth of Christ, is one of the most celebrated periods in Romania before Christmas. The Advent period starts on November 14th and ends on the day of Christmas. During this period, especially on the first day, no dairy or meats can be consumed. However, there are certain days where the Romanians are allowed to eat fish and dairy, such as Saint Ignatius day. On Christmas Eve, most Romanians fast and thank the lord for sending Jesus Christ as the savior.
The holiday season in Romania begins with Saint Andrews day towards the end of November. It is believed that during this time, vampires may attack at night, which is why all the households in Romania have to hang garlic on their front doors and even attach crucifix's all around the house to keep evil spirits and vampires at bay. This is one of the first preparations for Christmas. Once the night has passed, people start preparing for Christmas from the very next day.
Carols And Music
Carols and music form a very important part of Romanian folklore. A lot of compilations of Christmas music have been released in Romania and many of them are renowned around the world. Romania is also known to have a 'Santa Claus Radio Station', from where people go live during the holiday season. Romanian carols are invocations that warm the heart and reflect the moods of the festive season perfectly. Here are a few examples of some of the most popular Romanian Carols.
"Do you receive the pretty star?
Pretty and so bright?
It has appeared on the earth
Just like God through it would be right
And it could be seen on high,
Just like we did, in the sky."
It is believed that children walk the snow-covered streets with placards of biblical scenes and icons of the Holy family while singing this from one neighborhood to another. This is in fact a carol, but is made to sound like a song and is sung in somewhat of a 'questioning' tone.
Other popular carols sung by carolers and children are 'Oh, What Wondrous Tidings' and 'Three Wise Men coming from the East'. Carolers usually sing these carols in groups and are often accompanied by a man dressed in a goat costume with a mask. This character is known as the 'Capra' and does a lot of mischief on Christmas Eve, annually.
St. Ignatius Day
One of the most important rituals leading to Christmas is St. Ignatius Day, which falls 5 days before Christmas. On this day, a pig is cut with a very sharp knife. After the pig has been slaughtered, it is washed, stuffed with hay and covered in cloth. The sign of the cross, marking the arrival of Jesus Christ is made on the pig's forehead, and the head of the family says 'Let's eat the pig!' This is followed by a grand feast and is consumed with Red Wine or Brandy made out of the freshest plums.
Romanian Christmas Feast
During Christmas, Romanians bake or buy most of their dishes from outside. Their special dishes include sweets, fries, and desserts, which are usually baked in 'Cozonac'. Other popular dishes include pork dishes such as pork crackling, pork ribs, 'Sarmale', raisins, cocoa and 'piftie'.
Christmas in Romania is becoming less of a sacred affair and more is beginning to be celebrated more festively. The holiday season ends on January 7th, with the celebration of Saint John. The festival is given prime importance in this country because of the number of Catholic dwellers. If you are planning to visit Romania during Christmas, get ready to be dazzled with a magical, Romanian Christmas.
Christmas in Romania is a jubilant affair. To know more about the Christmas customs, traditions and celebrations, read on.