New Year’s Traditions and Customs in Romania

By Carmen

Winter Holidays are here!!! It is the most beautiful time of the year indeed! There is so much joy and happiness everywhere you go! Homes and stores are beautifully decorated; people seem to be kinder and more generous around this time of the year! Yes, in today’s society there is a very enhanced commercial side added to the holiday season but to me this time of the year means great memories, good times with family and friends, traditions and customs, good food and lots of laughter and joy!

I am Romanian and to me and in general to Romanians- Christmas and New Year’s traditions and customs are very important!

Romanians make such a big deal of New Year’s Eve. Most Romanians believe that we need to do a major cleaning on/before this day outside and inside our homes because whatever or whoever you are on the last day of the year is how you are going to be the next year. So if the New Year catches you with a messy/dirty home this is how your home will be for the entire next year and so on…This belief/superstition doesn’t just work for cleaning, but also the way you manage your money; the belief is that if you have no money on the last day of the year, then you will probably have no money all year next year so on New Year’s Eve everybody is stuffing their pockets with money to ensure a prosperous new year. We basically try to follow the saying, “Do not let the year find you… because this is how your next year will be !”

Another great thing about the New Year are the traditions associated with it.

New Year’s Eve traditions are some of the finest winter attractions in Romania if you decide to spend your holidays relaxing in the villages from the countryside. Diverse, colorful and rich in symbols and meanings, these customs bring to the present glimpses of pre-Christian rituals and underline the predominant agrarian lifestyle from the past.

It all starts in the morning of the New Year’s Eve when groups of children go from house to house performing “Plugusorul” (the little plow). Equipped with bells and even whips, the children recite or sing traditional lyrics, usually featuring some agrarian or historical myths, the main message being in all cases health wishes for the hosts and rich crops for the year to come. In the evening of the same day, groups of adults, dressed in traditional clothes and playing musical instruments, perform “Plugul” (the big plow), even bringing a plow with horses or bulls in more traditional villages.

The most colorful New Year’s Eve traditions are the mask-dances, magical ceremonials of death and rebirth, with a variety of representations from the animal world like goats, horses or bears, and fictional characters like the devil.

One of the most spectacular mask-dances is the “dance of the bear”, an iconic animal for the forests of Romania. Symbolizing the death and rebirth of the New Year, the dance of the bearbrings to the scene intricate costumes. The dance is usually accompanied by the music of drums that dictate the rhythm of the performance.

Another representative mask-dance is the “goat” that tells the story of powerful magical practices that have the power of resurrecting the animal after it was charmed, another symbol of the death and rebirth of nature. Usually, the goat mask is carved from wood, covered in fur, with a jaw that moves up and down and has horns from a real goat. The body of the goat is made out of a colorful carpet.

Attractive and spectacular, the mask-dances are the highlights of New Year’s Eve traditions in the villages of Romania where they are still performed and conserved. These are just few of the charming winter traditions from this time of the year and hopefully you’ll have the chance of discovering many more if traveling to Romania.

One of my favorite things on New Year’s Eve is the food and the cooking that is going on that day. A few traditional foods we usually cook are Sauerkraut Cabbage Rolls, Romanian Jellied Pig’s Feet, Eggplant Salad and many more. Oh… another superstition we have is that you should not eat chicken or any type of bird on New Year’s because it has wings and therefore your luck will fly away….

Every country and culture I am sure has wonderful traditions and customs around this time of the year so pass them on from generation to generation and do not let them be forgotten. Enjoy them with friends and family and create memories that last a lifetime!

Wishing you good health, happiness, and good cheer in the coming year!!!

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