Christmas traditions in Romania


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Christmas traditions and customs in Romania go back in time, but few are still preserved nowadays. Although city dwellers are not big fans of folk traditions anymore, they are better represented in the countryside.

The Christmas holiday in Romania start on December 20, when people celebrate St. Ignatius’s Day. On this day, traditional Romanians are usually slaughtering the pig and its meat is used for the Christmas dishes like sausages, piftie – a sort of aspic meal, hog’s pudding and other pork dishes. Yet, this customs is mostly preserved in the countryside.

However, the Christmas celebrations actually start on Christmas Eve, on December 24th, when people should decorate their Christmas trees and go carol singing, when Santa is coming and gifts are shared.

Carol singing is indeed a very popular part of Christmas in Romania. On Christmas Eve, children go out carol singing from house to house, being rewarded with sweets, fruit, traditional cakes called ‘cozonaci’ and sometimes money for their performance. Adults go carol singing on Christmas Day evening and night.

A traditional Romanian carol is the ‘Star Carol’. The star, made of colored paper and often decorated with tinsel, silver foil and sometimes bells, is put on a pole. A picture of baby Jesus or a nativity scene is placed in the middle of the star. Carol singers take the star with them when they go carol singing.

Other popular carols to sing include ‘Oh, What Wondrous Tidings‘ (‘O, ce veste minunata’), ‘Three Wise Men coming from the East‘ (‘Trei Crai de la rasarit’), “Today Christ Was Born” (Astazi s-a nascut Hristos), “Three Shepherds“, “The Star” or “Sus la poarta Raiului” (Up at Heaven’s Gate).

Another Christmas Eve tradition is the performance of a drumming band or ‘dubasi‘, which usually consists in unmarried men. Such a drumming band can have up to 50 or 60 men! Besides drums, a saxophone and violin are often accompanying the singers. The band will practice for about a month before Christmas, so they are quite professional.

If you want to find out more on the Christmas traditions and customs of each Romanian region you can read the following features:

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