Category Archives: Winter holidays

What to do in Romania after the winter holidays season?

So, the winter holidays season has finally ended, all the cabbage rolls have been eaten along with all salads du beouf, the dances of the masked spirits marked their way into the new year, and now everyone has entered their routine. This begs the question: is there anything else that happens in Romania after the winter holiday season? Is there anything else Romanians do or look forward to? The thing is, at least until the winter season itself has ended, there are plenty of things that are celebrated in Romania, so let us tell you about some of them.

1. Saint Peter’s wolves

Similar to Saint Andrews, the wolves’ apostle we told you about in our last article about the Romanian Halloween, Saint Peter is celebrated on the 16th of January, on the month of Frosty (January’s folk name), being a tradition transmitted from generation to generation.

Pack of wolves howling
Source: madelaine.ro

The elders say that this is the day when Saint Peter is the “patronus” of the wolves, when all of them gather in packs, howling. It is said that this is when Saint Peter comes and shares pray to the wolves for an entire year, at midnight, riding a white horse. The pray consists of a sheep or a deer, the wolves “agreeing” to only touch said pray, while leaving the humans be.
The folk stories depict him as both an earthly and a divine being. He walks the earth alone, but sometimes accompanying God when checking how the humans are doing.

2. The small Union – the Union between Romanian Principalities

158 years ago, on the 24th of January 1859, a great deed was accomplished, one that stood at the base of what now we know as modern day Romania. Romanians remember with great pride the day of the Unification of the Romanian Principalities.

The Union of Wallachia with Moldavia that happened on the 24th is the political act that stays at the base of modern day Romania and the overall forming of the Romanian nation. The historical circumstances of those times didn’t allow the union of all three Romanian countries (Moldova, Wallachia and Transylvania), but it was the jumpstart to a gradual formation of the Romanian state, starting with the small Union in 1859, and ending with the Grand Union back in 1918 when the fight for the freedom of the Romanian people will be victorious.

Recently, the Romanian Government even passed a law that declared the day of 24th of January to be a free one from work, given the great importance in the history of the country that needs to be cherished as such.

3. Saint Valentine

Known as the lover’s day, Saint Valentine is celebrated in Romania as well, on the 14th of February, so if you want to spend your Valentine’s day with a touch of Romanian scent you can come over. Although this celebration has its roots in English culture, where young lovers take their partner out on a date, you’ll discover another facet here: elders say that this is the day known also as the day in which the birds choose their partners. It is well known as “the day of bird’s matrimony”. Maybe this is where the “lovebirds” saying stems from? It sure seems like a plausible thought.

Tradition here says that the first bird a girl will see it will foretell her the kind of man she’ll later marry. If it will be a blackbird, she’ll marry a priest, yellow feathered birds will bring her a rich man, while sparrow will bring forth a farmer. The blue feathered birds will be the ones foretelling her a marriage with a joyous man, while the dove a loving man. However, if she were to see a woodpecker, no marriage for her.

4. The “Dragobete”

Being the magical personification of love itself, the Dragobete is celebrated on the 24th of February, being considered the God of youthfulness and joy. This day is considered among Romanians as the old “lover’s day”, a more “authentic one” than Saint Valentine, given its inheritance, being passed down from generation to generation ever since the older days of the mighty Dacians.

Traditions here say that in the morning of Dragobete, girls would gather around fresh snow and wash their hair with the water that came from the snow, saying that their hair will get more beautiful.

Source: click.ro

Also on Dragobete you’ll hear around people saying “Dragobetele kisses the girls!”.

Besides that, if the weather permits it, girls and boys would wear traditional clothing and walked together along the woods singing and picking the first flowers of spring.

Other times they’d meet at a house where everything would turn into a big party, celebrating love and cheerfulness.

Dance of the masked spirits – Romanian traditions of winter holidays

Winter holidays have already begun in Romania by now, with the coming of Saint Nicholas who, as you already found out by now, brings gifts to the children who have been well behaved over the course of the year. The tradition is that you have to clean your boots in order to receive the gifts he has brought for you. And this is not all!

maramures-jocul-mosilor
Source: one.ro

Many other traditions follow as the other holidays of the winter season come around in Romania. Some of them are what we like to call the “dance of the masked spirits”, which occur around Christmas or New Year’s Eve. The masked dances are archaic habits that have transcended time and are still practiced nowadays in Romania. About them, the Romanian writer Mircea Eliade (who wrote “The History of Religions”) said that: “such ceremonies are still popular in the Balkans, in Romania especially during the 12 days of Christmas Eve to Epiphany. Originally, they were ceremonies in connection to the periodical return of the dead wearing all sorts animal masks“.

Want to know what sorts of masked animal spirits are we talking about? Well, let us immerse you in the magic of the Romanian winter holidays…

The dance of the bear

Practiced mostly in the region of Bucovina, where this animal is worshiped, the dance of the bear is a masked dance that takes place mostly around New Year’s Eve. These are archaic habits, being a millenary agrarian and pastoral tradition.
The dance of the bear symbolizes the death and renewal of nature, as presented by Mihai Coman in the Romanian mythological bestiary: “In the Bear carol, the animal dies and is revived, in a symbolical dramatization of the cosmos’/nature’s re-birthing myth. Thus, the rolling of the bears in circles, the beating and the death of the bear followed by its miraculous revival, likewise its ascension on the bat (rod), play in a metaphorical way the succession of the seasons which, a long time ago, were standing on the sign of this animal, capable of defeating the winter and announce the spring“.

Source: omofon.com
Source: omofon.com

The cult of the bear is known from the most archaic of times, being present in the geto-dacian culture as well. Here, the bear was seen as a sacred animal, and as a testimony of that stands even the name of the great god Zalmoxis, where zalmo translates as skin and oxis as bear, therefore dealing with the God covered in bear skin.

In the Romanian mythology, the bear is invested with multiple apotropaic (protective) virtues, therapeutic and wheaterly ones. Earlier, there was even a belief that if a newborn was anointed with bear fat on the body on the first wash, he would gain strength and the bear’s luck.

The dance of the goat

Just like the dance of the bear, the goat’s one is another millennia old winter holidays tradition, being another representative of the Romanian people’s rich spirituality. Same as the bear, the goat was a totemic animal that would tell the people if what was to follow was good or bad times.

At its origins, the goat’s dance was a harsh ceremonial – the killing, the weeping, the burial and the resurrection -, however during the agrarian holidays, the dance became a ritual meant to bring richness to the following year, growth in animal numbers as well as richness to the crops.

Source: agrointel.ro
Source: agrointel.ro

The dance itself is very lively and it’s mostly used to capture the attention of the viewer. However, that’s not the only way one can do this, as the costume itself can also do that, given that it’s a very lively one, as well with its multitude of ornaments – antlers, mirrors, colored rags, dried flowers or tinsel.

The goat itself (or deer in other parts of the country, depending on the features of the area it’s played in) is accompanied by other characters meant to symbolize the shepherds, old men or women, and dancers in traditional costumes.

So, what do you say? Curious to get your attention fully drawn into the dance of the masked spirits? If you come over, we promise you that you can definitely get to live one of these magical millennia old experiences firsthand. Plunge into the multitude of sounds and colors that accompany these old spiritual traditions the Romanians still keep and get to live some of the most authentic experiences of your life!

The Romanian Halloween

Oh, we know, everybody knows the American Halloween, but did you know that Romania has its own night of Halloween as well? It’s okay if you don’t know, we imagined, after all Romania is most known for being the homeland of the world’s most intriguing vampire – Dracula. That is why, now, we invite you yet again, to go a bit beyond Dracula and find out more about the other facets of the Romanian culture.

Celebrated on the eve of Saint Andrews – the first-called, Night of the Spirits – or Noaptea Strigoilor as you’ll hear it from the mouths of your Romanian friends, is celebrated on night of 29th of November going on the 30th, being the night when it’s said the wolves gather around, and Saint Andrews – who is known as the wolves’s apostle, shares pray for each wolf given the winter that’s about to come, and also protects every human from any wolf attack that might happen.

wolf-picture
Source: danais.ro

The beautiful traditions for the night of Saint Andrews are a legacy passed down from the Romanian ancestors, the Dacians – or the wolf warriors as they were known given their battle symbol in the figure of the wolf headed dragon, a custom shrouded in mysticism that you definitely must know about. Old legends say that the wolves accompanied the warriors when Sarmisegetusa fell, and that the one who was their leader watched over apostle Andrew through the wilderness of Dobrogea to the cave that was offered to him as shelter.
So, what else besides the wolves coming around does the traditions say it happens on the Romanian Halloween? Well, let us tell you a couple of them.

The spirits come to surface

In the traditional belief of the Romanian people, in the eve of Saint Andrews it is said that the spirits “come to surface” or “walk around”. But what are these spirits, these strigoi as you’ll hear your Romanian acquitances naming them? Well, none other than spirits of the dead who don’t get to make it to the “other world” after their funeral. Other cases might be that they refuse to go back “there” after they’ve come to visit their relatives on earth on the occasion of really important holidays.

Source: aplostapes.wikia.com
Source: aplostapes.wikia.com

However, while on the occasion of the American Halloween people costume themselves and go trick or treat because the spirits there seem to not be that mad, on the Romanian Halloween they don’t seem to be so indulgent with the living given that they become very dangerous for them: from taking the lives of close relatives to bringers of grave diseases. Spooky, isn’t it? And that’s not all!

It is also believed that these strigoi can leave you mute if you answer their calling whenever they’ll come to your house searching to enter it. If they don’t find a place where to enter from, they’ll call you out and ask you if you have eaten garlic. If you are unlucky enought to answer to them, they’ll steal your voice, if not, they’ll continue their journey to another house where they’ll try doing the same to its inhabitants.

An auspicious night for magic and finding your chosen one

What else happens on this remarkably spooky night? Well, it is a perfect night for casting a spell or finding out who your chosen one is. Yes, you’ve heard that right! In this frightening night that looks almost hopeless, not only you can perform different spells, but you can also find your true love by… dreaming about your future spouse!

dreaming about your chosen one
Source: webcultura.ro/Raymond Peynet

That is if you put 41 wheat grains under your pillow in that specific night and dream about how someone comes and gets them all away from you. Yes, that’s the way it works.

On Saint Andrew’s night, everyone from the family sows wheat grains in a bowl with some soil on it, especially older girls and boys. Whoever gets their grain bigger and nicer, that’s the one whose year is going to be the luckiest one, as well as the healthiest, since health and luck are two main ingredients for a prosperous life.

So, as you can see – or better said read, the Romanian Halloween is slightly different than your usual American one, but not less spooky, as you may observe!

So, what do you say? Coming over for an adventure? We’re waiting for you with garlic for protection, and some wheat grains for lucks and good health! And we promise you we won’t let the strigoi steal your voice, as we already know how to deal with them. So if you know you want to live the experience of the Romanian Halloween, leave it all behind and come over!

5 magical Romanian regions where you can spend the winter holidays

The winter holidays are drawing near with each passing day. If you have thought about visiting Romania to spend the winter holidays here, and want to experience true Romanian authenticity, then we have just the perfect places for you to immerse in the beauty that surrounds these magical days. Let’s take them one by one.

1. Bucovina

Often called the land of fairy-tale like landscapes, Bucovina is well-known for its firmness in still keeping alive the traditions and the rituals that come along with them, after so much time has passed, and so many things that have happened with the changing times. Especially when Christmas comes. So if you want to feel the purely authentic taste of Romanian holidays, you definitely need to visit Bucovina and witness firsthand the genuineness of the place and the people that live there and contribute to the feeling.

people-chanting-bucovina-christmas
Source: proiecte-structurale.ro

2. Maramures

Another equally beautiful and authentic place to spend your holidays in Romania is the Maramures region. Here, centuries-old traditions inherited from the elders have remained untouched by the hand of civilization or any other ideology or current. Spending your holidays in Maramures means going back in time, to the spirituality of older days, where you’ll meet unique customs and traditions.

Group of carolers in Maramures
Sources: radiocluj.ro

3. Poiana Stampei

Another location we think you should visit if you want to have a wonderful winter holiday is Poiana Stampei, in Moldova. Located at the pass between Transylvania and Bucovina, Poiana Stampei will conquer your heart with its picturesque-like landscapes, that together with the locals that have kept the traditions alive, make it another place perfect for living a truly authentic Romanian holiday experience.

Source: monitoruldedorna.ro
Source: monitoruldedorna.ro

4. Bran-Moeciu

Hundreds of years old unchanged traditions – that is how you can describe the Bran-Moeciu region. Close to the place that is known as Dracula’s Castle, the Bran-Moeciu area is one of Transylvania’s spiritual cradles, so if you are looking for a place where authenticity is at home and your soul can be tranquil, you’ll definitely love it here, and fully live the genuine experience that you’re looking for. It’s also well known for the delicious culinary experience it can offer.

Source: romaniatv.net
Source: romaniatv.net

5. Apuseni

Last but not least… Apuseni region, where the mountain ridges dress themselves in accordance to the holidays, like the locals, in order to celebrate the good times of the holidays season. That is why we also have in mind Apuseni when thinking about places you should visit if you want to live an authentic Romanian experience during the holidays. We bet you’ll be delighted when you’ll see the carolers coming at your door, as Apuseni is another region where traditions have been kept untouched.

dinner-table-christmas-holidays-apuseni
Source: cabanamotilor.ro

So, are you ready to have the ultimate Romanian experience during the holidays? Ready to be shrouded in the beauty of the lands, and feel your spirit more alive than ever by partaking in some of the local traditions? If you know that deep down below the answer is yes, then don’t forget, we’re waiting for you!