Friday, January 22, 2010

Romanian Winter Season

In Romania, the winter holiday season is truly in full-swing from December 24 to January 7. Highlights include: Christmas Day, New Year and Epiphany, with their respective eves. The most important feature of these celebrations is their unique variety of colorful Romanian customs, traditions, and believes, of artistic, literary, musical, and other folklore events, which make the winter holidays some of the most original and spectacular spiritual manifestations of the Romanian people.
Children of all ages go from house to house singing Christmas carols, or through the streets on New Year's Eve reciting congratulatory verse. The whole traditional village participates in waists, although mostly children practice this custom.

The Caroling - Colindatul

Traditionally, during the first hours after dark on Christmas' Eve is the time for children to go caroling and the adults stay home to greet them. As they go caroling from house to house, the children receive treats like candy, fruit, baked treats and sometimes even money in appreciation of their performance and as a sign of holiday good will.

The grown-ups caroling goes on Christmas evening and night. The waits -young and mature people - gather in groups and they choose a leader. When they are in the front yard of a house, they perform their repertory to the host. The songs are always accompanied by dance. When the performance is over, the host invites the carolers inside the house for food, drinks and presents.

The Star Carol - Steaua

Children make a star using colored paper and then they put in its middle an icon of Jesus. Many of children decorate their star using shiny tinsel. The “Star Carol” is a tradition during the 3 days of Romanian Christmas.

While holding the star in the hands the children sing:

"The star has appeared on high,
Like a big secret in the sky,
The star is bright,
May all your wishes turn out right…"

The Goat Tradition * Capra

Throughout the season, teenagers and young adults especially enjoy caroling with the “Goat”. The “Goat” is actually a usually boisterous young person dressed up in a goat costume. The whole group dances through the streets and from door to door, often with flute music. This tradition comes from the ancient Roman people and it reminds us of the celebration of the ancient Greek gods.

This custom is also called "brezaia" in Wallachia and Oltenia, because of the multicolored appearance of the goat mask. The goat jumps, jerks, turns round, and bends, clattering regularly the wooden jaws.

Bear Custom - Ursul

This custom is known only in Moldavia, a part of Romania, on the Christmas Eve. In this case a young person dresses up in a bear costume adorned with red tassels on its ears, on his head and shoulders. The person wearing the bear costume is accompanied by fiddlers and followed by a whole procession of characters, among them a child dressed-up as the bear's cub. Inspired by the crowd’s singing:

"Dance well, you old bear,
And I’ll give you bread and olives"

the bear grumbles and imitates the steps of the bear, striking strongly against the earth with the soles of its feet to the sound of drums and pipes.

The Little Plough * Plugusorul

Plugusorul is a small plough. In Romanian folklore is a traditional procession with a decorated plough, on New Years' Eve. This is a well wishing custom for the field fruitfulness into the new year. This custom arises from "Carmen arvale", a Roman wish for bountiful crops.

The ploughmen are teenagers and children carrying whips, bells and pipes in their hands.


"Sorcova" is a special bouquet used for New Year's wishes early New Year’s morning. Children wish people a “Happy New Year!” while touching them lightly with this bouquet. After they have wished a Happy New Year to the members of their family, the children go to the neighbors and relatives. Traditionally, the "Sorcova" bouquet was made up of one or several fruit - tree twigs (apple-tree, pear-tree, cherry-tree, plum-tree); all of them are put into water, in warm place, on November 30th (St. Andrew’s Day), in order to bud and to blossom on New Year's Eve.

Sorcova, vesela,
Sã trãiti, sã-mbãtrâniti,
Ca un mãr, ca un pãr,
Ca un fir de trandafir,

Tare ca piatra,
Iute ca sãgeata,
Tare ca fierul,
Iute ca otelul,

Peste varã, primavarã,
Nici capul sã nu te doarã,
La anu' si la multi ani !

Merry Sorcova,

May your health be strong

And you life long:

As an apple tree

As a pear stately

As a rose bush fair

Blossoming beyond compare:

Strong as a granite rock

Quick as an arrow’s shock

Hard as an iron bar

Tougher than steel by far,

Over summer, over spring,

May your health be great

A New Year with happiness

And in everything success.

Nowadays people often use an apple-tree or pear-tree twig decorated with flowers made up of colored paper. The children receive all kinds of treats such as: cakes, honeycombs, biscuits, pretzels, candies, nuts, money.

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