Christmas is a major annual celebration in Romania, full of significance and traditions. Romanians, who are predominantly Orthodox, celebrate Jesus Christ's birth. Introduced once with the Christianization of Romania, the observance of Christmas was interrupted during the Communist period (1948—1989), as concepts as religion, Jesus Christ or the Church were banned. Instead of being visited by Santa Claus children received gifts under the fir tree from Old Man Frost/ Mos Gerila.
In fact, the whole month of December is a festive period for Romanians. Celebrations start already on 30th November, St. Andrew’s day. On 1st December is Romania’s National Day. On 5th December, in the evening, children wait for the arrival of St. Nicholas/Mos Nicolae who leaves gifts in their shining boots. 6th December is St. Nicholas's day. Winter festivities end on January 7, with the celebration of Saint John.
Christmas celebration proper starts on 24th December in the morning. By that time the Christmas tree that people buy from the markets must be already decorated. It is the day children usually start caroling their neighbors till late evening. Music plays an important part of Christmas festivities all over Romania. This music is related to Christmas carols. The songs are named colindă. Some people say that certain elements of the carols performed around Christmas have their roots in the Roman Saturnalia and pagan rituals related to the winter solstice and soil fertility. There are areas in the country where children or even grown-ups go caroling till New Year.
On 24th December women cook the traditional foods for Christmas dinner. Pork is traditional meat in Christmas various delicacies. 20th December,the day the pigs are sacrificed is called Ignat day, Saint Ignatius Day. There is a tradition that asks the housewives to prepare and share from the meat of the sacrificed animal that very same day.
On Christmas morning people go to church for the religious service, and then they return home to wait for the carol singers. All family will be present at the Christmas dinner and taste the delicious traditional sarmale/ minced meat rolled in pickled cabbage leaves/, carnati/ spiced sausages, cozonaci//sponge cake/ and placinte/pies.( You can see a plate with sarmale and some cozonac in the images)
Christmas traditions in villages
- pigs must be sacrificed on 20th December. Starting from that day on, pigs that are still alive will no longer gain weight; tradition says the animals dreamed about the sacrificing knives during the night.
- crumbs from the first cozonac are thrown to poultry or cattle, to protect them from getting ill,
- no washing of dishes on this day. Plates and casseroles are washed on the next day and the water is sprinkled where animals are kept,
-people say that if Christmas day is a warm one, Easter will be cold and the other way round,
- nobody must sweep the floors and take the garbage out of the house until the following day,
- no chicken meat is eaten during Christmas days as doing it will attract all kind of misfortunes on the family.
It goes without saying that children are most anxious for Christmas and Santa Claus - Mos Craciun who will bring them beautiful gifts – sweets, toys and books. They will recite poems and sing songs for Santa Claus.
At the beginning of December the Christmas lights are turned on all over the streets in all cities. All shops and stores display nicely arranged shop windows attracting customers with tempting offers and sales.