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Christmas Customs and Traditions

23 December 2021 No Comment

Christmas customs and traditions


Christmas is the first holiday during the New Year’s holiday season. In Romania, Christmas is celebrated according to the new calendar on December 25, and according to the old one, on January 7. 

There is no family in the countryside who does not prepare for Christmas.

During the Christmas holidays, the most beautiful custom of all is caroling. Carols are the songs with which children, young people or even adults greet the coming of Christ on Earth.        

The origin of the word carol is found in the Latin calendae. The name was given by the Romans to the pagan New Year holidays. At that time, the children of the Romans walked from house to house and sang “hymns”. Over time, Latin tradition has been taken over and adapted to Christianity.

The caroling ritual includes Star songs, “Halleluiah”, “the Plough”, “Sorcova”. There are many masks games put on scene, folk theater, dances (horses and horsemen).

Between Christmas and Epiphany (Baptism of the Lord; January 6) carolers walked with the Star.

The symbolism of this carol is reminiscent of the star that heralded the birth of Jesus. This led the three mages to find the Manger in which the miracle happened. Nowadays this custom is only happening in the first and second day of Christmas.

Those who walk with the star sing carols, reminiscent of the Lord’s life, called “The rising star” or “Three kings from the East.”

Romanian star songs come from various sources. From the Orthodox Byzantine world, from the world of the Catholic Church or the cultural creations of our nation.

The star worn during the carols is made of light wood and has several corners. It is decorated with colored paper and has an icon with the Mother of God and Jesus Christ in the middle.

The group of carolers is received in the house or in the yard and then the children start singing carols.

At the end of the carol, the crowd of carolers will receive a reward. In ancient times they received pretzels, nuts, apples, cake. But now they are also rewarded with cash.

When people do not receive carolers, keep their doors shut or don’t offer gifts, the magical effects are the opposite, violating the rules of this custom.    

The repertoire of Romanian customs and traditions also includes a number of customs, practices, superstitions, advice originating in ancient or Christian beliefs and myths.

  • On Christmas morning it is good to wash our face with running water, in which we put a silver coin. We will be as clean as silver, free from rashes and bruises, which will go down the drain.
  • In many Romanian villages, the old people use garlic to cover the thresholds of the house, the stables and the sheds. Then they go to the animals and the members of the house and anoint their foreheads in the shape of a cross. They believe that they will be protected from undead and evil spirits next year.

•       On Christmas night, many people leave a lighted candle, often on top the icon of Jesus Christ. Thus, luck will see the house in the dim light and will be able to enter.  

  • The woman who makes the cakes for Christmas, goes to the garden with her hands full of dough and says to each tree like this: “apple, pear, etc. be as fruitful as the dough is on my hands”.
  • Also on Christmas Eve, the girls who want to know their future partner have to put a soap and a comb under which they will sleep, thus dreaming of their chosen one.
  • On the night of Christmas Eve, the girl who wants to know if she will get married following year has to go out, take a bunch of finely chopped wood and place it under the table. After everyone has finished eating, the girl has to count them. If the number is even, she will get married following year.
  • On Christmas Eve and the following days, people must avoid arguing otherwise all year long they will be in quarrels and arguments.
  • During Christmas one should not clean the house and rubbish should not be thrown away, otherwise luck will avoid that house.
  • The Christmas Eve meal in Moldavia is not eaten until it is blessed by the village priest. No one is allowed to start eating until the priest enters the door. The priest blesses the meal, tastes first the dishes and then those who live in that house.

The custom of decorating the Christmas tree overlapped with an old custom of cremating the Stump (god of death) on Christmas night. This custom symbolized the death and rebirth of divinity and the year at the winter solstice. The custom was attested in Romanians, Aromanians, Latvians and Serbo-Croats.    

well-known custom in Romania is “cutting the pig”. In some parts of the country, the pig is slaughtered by December 20. It is said that the pig that was not slaughtered on that day wouldn’t gain any more weight, because he saw his knife. Every householder should cut a pig at Christmas.

Traditions and customs on the occasion of Christmas in Romania are many, they are different in each region of the country.


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