Each nation has its own distinct traditions that make it unique among the many fascinating cultures of the world. Romania also has its share. Many of its traditions go back to the superstitious and religious rural world. Some are so bizarre and funny that only Romanian people can understand them.
Here’s our list of 13 of the most original Romanian traditions.
Single women all around the world can now relax about their future love life. All they have to do is put some basil under their pillow on January 6, and they will meet their prince charming. This night marks the baptism of Jesus, a popular celebration in the Orthodox Calendar.
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On the same day of Boboteaza, January 6, men get to prove their courage or lack of judgment for that matter. They swim in the freezing waters of local rivers and lakes to bring back to shore a wooden cross Orthodox priests threw as far as possible. This is the Romanian way to celebrate the baptism of Jesus, which we’re pretty sure took place in warmer waters.
Romanian people like to know what’s in store for them in the new year. One of the fun traditions that give them a preview is Babele. They know how the rest of the year will be depending on the weather conditions during a single day.
The great news is you get to choose your day, from March 1st to March 9. Of course, you shouldn’t cheat and check the weather channel before.
A delicious tradition we enjoy a lot is ironically related to the death of 40 Christian soldiers in ancient Armenia thousands of years ago. Baked in the shape of the number eight, mucenici or sfinti are made of sweet dough with a honey and nut topping. These yummy sweets symbolize the sacrifice of the 40 soldiers. Weird, right?
Photo source: www.cozonaculdolofan.ro
There’s more. While women do the baking, according to the same tradition, men can get drunk as they’re supposed to drink 40 to 44 shots of rachiu. If you think this tradition is gender-biased, you’re right.
If you weren’t lucky to dream about prince charming on Boboteaza, you still have a chance on the night of Sanziene, June 23-24. But only if you put a couple of Lady’s Bedstraw flowers under your pillow. The tradition has you throwing a bucket of these flowers over the rooftop of your house if you hope to get married.
Sanziene is considered to be a magical night when fairies dance in the forests of Romania and the gates of heaven open. It also became in the last years a symbol of the beautiful Romanian blouse, ia.
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Calusarii is a group dance with archaic elements, that usually marks the transition from spring to summer. It takes place on Whit Monday and is part of the UNESCO Patrimony of Intangible Culture.
This complex dance, reserved only for men who become calusii, represents the confrontation with evil spirits that try to harm them. Documented since the 17th century, the dance is still practiced today in the south of Romania, in the historical province of Oltenia.
Painted eggs are one of the main symbols of Orthodox Easter in Romania. These colored eggs are also at the heart of a fun competition that lasts the three days of Easter. All you need is a solid egg you’ll knock with the eggs of your friends and family each time one of them says Hristos a inviat.
Some Romanian people believe in the superpowers of the church and of priests. This is why, occasionally, the priests are called to bless a new house, a new car, clothes, and even the more atheist members of the family. As it happens, if you don’t hide in time, you’ll get a big smelly cross drawn on your forehead.
Romanian people are bored by the Dracula nonsense. First, because Vlad the Impaler wasn’t Dracula and because Bran Castle isn’t Dracula’s Castle. Second, because they have their own local species of wannabe vampires. They are the ones and only strigoi, and they just hate garlic.
Strigoii, fantastic creatures that carry the troubled souls of the dead, torment the relatives of the departed. At least that’s what people in rural Romania believed until not too long ago.
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The best way to keep these devil creatures away is to eat garlic and even decorate the house with it on Saint Andrew night, November 30. This is when the alleged strigoi are most active.
Mask dances are the most colorful part of winter celebrations in Romania. These dances are performed usually by men costumed in goats, bears, and horses. Symbolically, they are a reenactment of agrarian practices and superstitions. The rituals have a well-established plot, Good versus Evil or humans versus nature, all on the rapid rhythm of loud drums.
Pork meat is the main ingredient for Christmas meals, but this is only half the story. Killing the pig is a contemporary reenactment of pagan sacrifices and is a big part of the winter traditions in rural Romania. In fact, many guest houses advertise it as part of their winter package. If you empathize with animal rights, it’s best to choose a host that shares your concerns.
Each Orthodox church has one or more saints to protect it, usually painted above the entrance. Religious locals, led by the priest, gather each year to thank their protector. This happens on a particular day from the religious calendar that marks the saint’s death.
Don’t imagine a humble celebration. Romanians enjoy too much their food and wine. This is a powerful tradition in small villages and gives communities a chance to reunite. But hram can also mean oversized pilgrimages in cities like Iasi or Bucharest.