Image via Unsplash.com
Well . . . yesterday, at least 🙂
But, in keeping with the holiday spirit, I’d like to share with you some of the fun and festive Romanian traditions on and around December 25th.
Crăciun Fericit (Pronounced craw-ch-oon fair-ee-cheat)
Christmas in Romania is no joke, encompassing not just a single day—the 25th of December—but an entire stretch of time for celebrating. In general, the holiday begins December 20th and ends January 7th, although the big Christmas celebrations begin on Christmas Eve, known as Ajunul Craciunului (pronounced ah-june-ool craw-ch-oon-ou-louie ). That’s when the Christmas tree is decorated and children go out into the neighborhoods singing carols:
A traditional Romanian Carol is the ‘Star Carol’. The star, made of colored paper and often decorated with tinsel, silver foil and sometimes bells, is put on a pole. In the middle of the star is a picture of baby Jesus or a nativity scene. Carol singers take the star with them when they go carol singing. The words of the Star Carol are:
“The star has appeared on high,
Like a big secret in the sky,
The star is bright,
May all your wishes turn out right.”
The holiday is steeped in religious undertones, as Orthodox Christianity is one of the more prominent religious of the land.
Here are some other unique customs
- In some parts of Romania, it’s tradition for people to dress in multicolored masks that resemble goats called “Capra” (pronounced cah-prah) and best known for jumping around and causing all sorts of mischief. Sound familiar? Think of the astrology sign Capricorn, which is also a goat 🙂
- December 20th, the beginning of the festivities also known as Ignat Day is also the day of taierea porcului (pronounced tie-aye-rah pour-coo-louie), otherwise known as pig slaughter. Here’s a video of the event (may not be for the faint of heart). The slaughtering of the pig is mean to provide a plentiful meal on Christmas day, utilizing every aspect of the animal (as Romanians tend to do) and carefully preparing the meat.
- Santa Claus is known by two names in Romanian, Moş Crăciun (pronounced mosh craw-ch-oon) or Old Man Christmas, and Moş Gerilă (pronounced mosh geh-re-le) or Old Man Frost.
- The New Year is sometimes called a Little Christmas.
- To usher in the New Year, children walk around carrying a bouquet called a Sorcova (pronounced sore-cove-ah) made from the twigs of different fruit trees. The bouquet is created in November, placed in a vase of water with hopes that it’ll bloom and blossom in the New Year! (This is probably one of my favorite traditions.)
The Christmas Fair
One last feature of a Romanian Christmas is relatively new to the country, but a true sight to be seen: The magical Christmas Fair the medieval markets of Transylvania, Sibiu, Brasov, and Cluj (though there is also a Bucharest Christmas Fair that’s worth visiting, as well). As I write this, the Sibiu Christmas Fair, aka Targul de Craciun, is already in its 10th year, catering to those looking for the old and the new of Romania. There’s plenty of shopping to be done in the market and an immersive cultural experience, from the Christmas decorations to the mulled wine and roasting chestnuts. It’s a picturesque experience which you can buy traditional, handmade Romanian goods, or feast on some of the best cuisine the country has to offer!
Sibiu Christmas Market is open daily from 10 am to 10 pm and admission is free.
Like what you’ve learned? Going to adopt any of these customs?
Let me know in the comments!