Are you curious to find out more about some of the most popular Romanian Christmas traditions? This is a favorite celebration in a country like Romania where many still go to church and think of Christmas as a religious holiday.
Beyond its importance in the Bible’s timeline, Christmas traditions in Romania were influenced by the agrarian lifestyle that dominated Romania until WW2. From this perspective, these rituals go back to pre-Christian times when winter solstice was a date of worship and celebration to bring nature back to life. Some of these elements are still visible in traditions like the dance with masks or the pig’s sacrifice a few days before Christmas.
There’s no better place like the traditional village to observe these pieces of cultural heritage. Even in a consumerist society like that of today, it seems that at least some Romanian Christmas traditions are here to stay.
Caroling is one of the oldest Christmas traditions in Romania. Although their message is usually religious, marked by the alleged birthdate of Jesus, carols go way back in time. In fact, carols appeared in Europe thousands of years ago as part of the rituals of the winter solstice celebration.
This practice changed in the Romanian territories once the Orthodox Church imposed its own view on carols. Instead of praying to the gods for good crops or protection, carols became beloved religious songs that survived time.
Children begin caroling on Christmas Eve, and, until a few decades ago, they wore traditional clothes for this occasion. On the evening of the same day, older carolers often accompanied by instrumentalists take their place. If in the past only young unmarried men could be part of these groups, today both women and men carol on Christmas Eve.
Although caroling has adapted to more modern realities, this is still a major part of the Christmas celebration in Romania. There’s no better place to experience it than in a traditional village.
It’s a bit complicated to present the pig’s sacrifice tradition without raising some questions on animal rights or EU norms. Even so, this is a practice that exists from pre-Christian times when the sacrifice was part of a worship ritual to bring back the light and the sun.
Photo credits Nitu Iulian
Many superstitions still exist about this tradition, usually performed on the 20th of December, on the day of Ignat. Although it lost its pagan purposes, the pig’s sacrifice is still a powerful practice in rural Romania. It’s also becoming a tourist attraction and one of the highlights of many winter vacation packages.
Christmas traditions in Romania wouldn’t be the same without the mouth-watering and oversized dishes Romanian people cook. Spoilers alert, this is not a vegan or even vegetarian-friendly tradition. From sausages and other specialties, pork meat is usually the main ingredient. Add sarmale, racituri, and the sweet bread cozonac, and you’ll need to start a diet before New Year’s Eve.
Photo credits Paul Istoan
Christmas is a magical time in Romania like anywhere else. We couldn’t imagine the long winter without this long-awaited break for family time or its traditional food. Whether you come to enjoy the traditions or the winter landscape, Romania is a special Christmas destination. Be sure to book local guest houses from small and less visited villages.