Romanian Christmas

November 30th 2023 in Travel
Romanian Christmas

Romanian Christmas

The Christmas and mid-winter celebrations last 18 days in Romania, from December 20th to January 7th. Ignat Day, also known as Ziua de Ignat, is celebrated on December 20th. It is a tradition for the head of the household to kill one of the pigs if the family keeps pigs. The meat from the pig is used in the Christmas meals. After the pig is killed, the family members share a dish called Pomana Porcului (Pork's Charity), which is traditionally cooked in a cauldron and consists of a variety of pork bits (pork belly, shoulder, liver, kidneys, etc.) in a garlic sauce and served with mămăligă (polenta). The day is named after Saint Ignatius of Antioch, whose saint day is also on December 20th.

On December 6th, Sfantul Nicolae's Day or St. Nicholas is celebrated. Children clean their shoes or boots on the evening of December 5th and leave them by the door, hoping Sfantul Nicolae will leave them some small presents. Sfantul Nicolae is also known as Moş Nicolae (Old Man Nicholas) and is not part of the Christmas celebrations. A tradition states that if it snows on December 6th, Sfantul Nicolae shakes his beard so winter can begin.

The Christmas celebrations begin on December 24th, Christmas Eve, when it's time to decorate the Christmas Tree. In Romanian, Christmas Eve is known as Ajunul Craciunului. Carol singing, known as Colindatul, is also a very popular part of Christmas in Romania. Children go out carol, singing from house to house on Christmas Eve, performing to the house's adults. They normally dance as well. The children get sweets, fruit, traditional cakes called cozonaci and sometimes money for singing well. Adults go carol singing on Christmas Day evening and night.

A traditional Romanian Carol is the Star Carol. The star, made of coloured paper and often decorated with tinsel, silver foil, and sometimes bells, is put on a pole. A picture of baby Jesus or a nativity scene is in the middle of the star. 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."

Other popular carols to sing include 'Oh, What Wondrous Tidings' ('O, ce veste minunata') and 'Three Wise Men coming from the East' ('Trei Crai de la rasarit').

In many parts of Romania, it's also traditional that someone dresses up as a goat, with a multicoloured mask and goes around with the carol singers. The goat, known as the Capra, jumps and dances around, getting up to lots of mischief!

Another Christmas Eve tradition is a drumming band or dubasi. This is usually made up of unmarried men. A band can have up to 50 or 60 men in it! As well as the drums, there's often a saxophone and violin. The band will practice for about a month before Christmas, so they are perfect. They go round the streets and are given presents.

In Romanian, Merry Christmas is Crăciun Fericit. Santa Claus is known as Moş Crăciun (Old Man Christmas) in Romania. During the time the country was under communist control, the gift bringer was Moş Gerilă (Old Man Frost), but Moş Crăciun is the main gift bringer now!

Traditional Romanian Christmas foods include Roast Gammon and Pork Chops (made from the killed pig!), Ciorba de perisoare, which is a slightly sour vegetable soup made with fermented bran and pork meatballs; Sarmale, cabbage leaves stuffed with ground pork and served with mămăligă/polenta; Cozonac, a rich fruit bread; Romanian doughnuts called gogosi and cheesecakes.

New Year's Eve is also an essential celebration in Romania. It's sometimes called Little Christmas. Traditionally, a small, decorated plough called a Plugusorul is paraded through the streets on New Year's Eve. It is meant to help people have good crops during the following year.

On New Year's Day, children wish people a Happy New Year while carrying a special Sorcova bouquet. Traditionally, the Sorcova was made of twigs from one or more fruit trees like apple, pear, cherry or plum. They're put into water in a warm place on November 30th, so they will come into leaf and blossom on New Year's Eve! A single apple or pear tree twig is often used and decorated with flowers made from coloured paper.