Romania is a very surprising country, especially around Christmas. The carols are not the only tradition we have. Here, each area has its own way of celebrating the winter holidays, with a diversity which is very hard to describe. So, I will let you know some of our traditions and I hope to make you so curious that next year you’ll book a vacation in Romania!
Maramureș is a region in Romania which attracts tourists like a magnet. It is a magical time, with fairy tale characters. There are not many villages that don’t respect the traditions. All of them are clean, trimmed with handmade costumes and amazing masks. The celebrations banish evil spirits. And the beautiful landscape and tasty food complete the picture.
In the Christmas Eve, the people lit the houses and let the doors open, so the carolers could know that they are welcome all night.
Groups of young men from the village begin to prepare for Christmas since November. They learn and repeat „Viflaimul” from village elders. Viflaim (the old name of the Bethlehem) is a play which is held on Christmas day.
After the church service on Christmas Day, comes the most important moment of the celebration: the Viflaim in played in front of the church. The scenario reminds of the first three days of Jesus’ life. The whole village gathers here in front of the lads who play impeccably their role.
I recommend you to see those photos – Christmas time in Maramureș.
Bands of Lads
In Transylvania, there are so many impressive and beautiful traditions. But I will tell you about the Bands of Lads from Mărginimea Sibiului, a village near Sibiu. This custom is held for hundreds of years. The bands are formed on the Saint Nicholas Day (the 6th of December) from unmarried men. They gather, under the leadership of a chief, to do repetitions for the Christmas Eve. On this say, they dress in popular costumes (just black and white) and sing carols in the whole villages, bringing joy to the people.
The most important moment is the gathering of the bands. It takes place on the fourth day after Christmas, in Sălişte. There, more than 200 lads come in the town square at midday. Each band presents its tradition, after which all young men unite in a great round dance. The event gathers thousands of people, mostly tourists, who come here for an unforgettable show.
More photos, here!
We can find tradition with the mask is some places, in all the country. It is said that this kind of rituals banishes the evil. All date from the earliest times. One of them is the Bear Play, from Dacian times. Back then, the bear was venerated as a holy animal. We can find this tradition almost everywhere in Romania. But the most expressive is concentrated in Bucovina region, in the Northern Moldavia.
A new Year’s tradition, it became one of the most spectacular habits throughout the year. It symbolizes death and rebirth of nature, in a dramatic show full of symbolism, with drummers, plovers and the spotlight is the bear.
Building the bear costume is another ritual. If in the past was made of straw, now is made from real fur – of a sheep or even of a bear. The coat is adorned with red tassels, belts and braids.
Some awesome photos – here!
Sacrifice of the Pig
For the Romanians in all the country, a very appreciated and kept tradition is the Pig Slaughter Day or “Ignatul”. This is held on 20 December. This tradition remembers about animal sacrifice rituals in the past in many cultures.
Obviously, for the most foreign people, this is a very strange and cruel way to celebrate the winter holidays. But we, the Romanians, have grown with this tradition. In most rural location, you’ll find it today!
This tradition has its roots in Dacian culture, when the people sacrificed pigs before the winter solstice, to help the sun defeat the darkness in the shortest day of the year.
The pig is killed with a short throat cut with a sharp knife, specially prepared for this event. After that, the animal is signed with straw fire. Now begins the portioning of the pig. First, the smoked skin – a delicacy for Romanians – is put on a plateau. Second, a small part of the meat is cut into small pieces and prepared at that moment to mark the sacrifice of the pig ritual, the pig’s alms. Last, the rest of the meat is divided and given to the women in the household to prepare the traditional dishes – so good that are internationally known.
All the work is accompanied by joy, music and traditional drinks.
You can see more pictures about this tradition here.
*a part of this article was published in Femeia magazine, December issue