How would winter look without Christmas and how would Christmas be without all its charming traditions? It’s hard to imagine, especially in a country like Romania where Christmas traditions were kept alive and passed from generation to generation, finding their place and relevance even today when more commercial habits are overwhelming the Christmas holiday.
Varying from one region to the other, the Romanian Christmas traditions are authentic and valuable pieces of cultural heritage, closely linked to the agrarian life of the countryside. They go back in time to pre-Christian beliefs when gods were celebrated on winter solstice to bring nature back to life. The pagan elements are still visible in the rituals performed in this time of the year like the dance with masks or the pig’s sacrifice before Christmas.
We would add that there’s no better place like the traditional village to experience these celebrations and each region of Romania will enchant you with very specific traditions and typical Christmas dishes. Despite all the modern additions, two of these traditions are still widely spread today.
Caroling is one the most popular Christmas traditions in Romania and although it’s usually related to the Christian celebration, carols go way back in time. In fact, carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago as part of the rituals of winter solstice celebration.
On the territory of today’s Romania, they were performed according to the agrarian calendar to bring good crops or to protect people from evil spirits. This dynamic changed once the Orthodox Church became strong enough to impose its own view on carols, their content becoming mostly religious.
In Romania, the children are those who begin caroling in the first part of the Christmas’ eve day, and, in regions like Bucovina or Maramures, they wear 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 and even in the next days.
Although traditional caroling has been adapted to more modern realities, this is still a major part of the Christmas celebration in Romania and there’s no better place to experience it than in a traditional village.
Well, it’s pretty tricky to present the pig’s sacrifice tradition without raising some questions regarding animal rights or EU norms that pretty much oppose this practice. Nevertheless, this is a practice that exists from pre-Christian times when the sacrifice of animals on the winter solstice was part of a more complex ritual of asking the gods to bring back the light and the sun.
Photo by Nitu Iulian
Many superstitions still exist regarding this tradition, usually performed before Christmas, on the 20th of December, on the day of Ignat. Although it lost its ritual purposes, the pig’s sacrifice is still a powerful practice in rural Romania, having very precise social and utilitarian implications for families in the countryside. It’s also becoming a tourist attraction and one of the highlights of many winter holiday offers. It’s up to you to like it or not.
Christmas in Romania would not be Christmas without the mouth-watering dishes Romanian people cook, sometimes in oversized quantities. From pork sausages and other meat lovers delights to the traditional sweet bread cozonac, these foods are a major part of the Romanian Christmas traditions.
Photo by Paul Istoan
Christmas is a magical time in Romania, even more, if it snows and the landscape becomes the picture perfect image we all hope to see this time of the year. If you’re planning a Christmas getaway here, choose historical towns like Brasov and Sibiu or small villages with strong traditions like Viscri.