Author: Cristiana-Teodora Ușurelu
The winter holidays are right around the corner. As an Erasmus student, you will probably go back to your home country to spend time with your loved ones, you might wander to other European countries hunting the perfect Christmas markets to celebrate these magical days or you might remain here, with us. In this case, let us tell you a bit about the Romanian traditions for Christmas and the days that precede it.
One of the most beloved Romanian traditions for the Christmas season (especially by the children) is the carols. They fill the air with joy and liveliness. Here, the carols differ from region to region, but they all declare one common event: the coming of Christ on Earth.
A few days before Christmas, children, youngsters, and also the adults go from house to house, singing traditional carols either with Steaua (the Star), Plugușorul (the Plow), or Sorcova. It is common that in towns and villages, there are also traditional theater plays and dances.
Tradition says that the ones not opening their doors to the carol singers will have a fruitless year and only bad luck will follow because of their greed.
But one Romanian Christmas tradition is in fact, so beautiful and unique that it earned its place in UNESCO's World Heritage. Called 'Junii Mărișelului' (Marisel’s Youngsters), it is a charming custom found in Mărișel, a village close to Cluj-Napoca. On Christmas Day, 10 unmarried young men gather at the main church in the village to dance and sing carols. After some time, the youngsters invite unmarried girls to join them for a dance.
In Romania, the Christmas festivities represent a period that brings the family together, and so it is celebrated more “in-house”, with our dear and close ones. Because of this reason, Romanians put more attention to household preparations. We decorate the Christmas tree with red and green ornaments, and hang fir branches in the house but also mistletoe, as it is said it will bring riches, happiness, and peace in the following year.
But without a doubt, the most important (and common) tradition during this time is the Christmas dinner. On the 25th of December, an abundant and rich dinner table is filled with traditional Romanian dishes that are usually prepared for this holiday, or for the winter season. Here include meals such as tobă, lebăr (Romanian version of Liverwurst), sarmale (cabbage rolls), mămăligă (polenta), caltaboși, colaci (bread), cozonaci (sweet bread), pita bread, sweets, salads (eggplant or boeuf), sausages or steak. Everything is prepared fresh, especially the meat. That is because Romanians have another tradition that takes place on the 20th of December. On this day, 'Ignat' day, it is customary to sacrifice a pig.
And lastly, there are a couple more things you should pay attention to on Christmas Day. In the morning, it is good to wash the face with running water (from a river or a spring, for example) because it is said it will help you keep a fair and bright complexion. And on the 25th of December don't throw out your garbage! You might also throw away your luck…
Crăciun Fericit! Merry Christmas!