Christmas is popularly known as ‘Crăciun’ in Romania. The festival was once observed in the country with much fanfare, but during the brutal days of communism, the people were forced to abandon the holiday and many of the traditions were lost. Following the overthrow of the communist regime in 1989, the country has slowly gone back to many of the earlier ways and traditions. Once again the Christmas season is being observed with joyous celebrations by the citizens of Romania.
Young adults are now experiencing the Yuletide traditions they previously heard their parents and grandparents discuss. The nearly month long celebration begins on December 6th with Saint Nicholas Day. Carolers walk through the streets of the towns and villages, holding a star made of cardboard and paper on which are depicted various scenes from the Bible. The leader of the group carries a large wooden star called “Steaua”, which is wrapped up with metal foil and adorned with bells and coloured ribbons and attached to a long broom handle. In return for such performances, carolers recieve apples, nuts, traditional cakes (‘cozonaci’) and sometimes even money from each house.
A very important Christmas custom practiced in Romanian villages is ‘Ignatius’, the sacrifice of a pig in every house in the honor of Saint Ignatius. A pig is specially chosen for this purpose and fed to make it grow fat, often around 300 pounds. Five days before Christmas, on 20th of December, the pig is blessed, killed and then eaten in a large feast with friends and family. They bless the pig so that its soul receives ample gratitude for the nourishment that it provides to all in the family.
But the real celebrations begin with the decoration of the Christmas tree on “Ajunul Craciunului” (Christmas Eve). Fir trees are decorated and lit, and gift exchanges take place on the evening of Christmas Eve.
In Romanian familes, all the women cook for three days leading up to ‘Craciun’. Christmas dinner in Romania is a rich, multi-course meal with various kinds of pork sausages, along with plum brandy and home made pickles. ‘Sarmale’ , an indispensable item for the festive dinner, consists of pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with a combination of pork and beef, along with rice, pepper, thyme and other spices. Other dishes to follow are roasted pork and turkey with red wine. The last item is ‘cozonaci’, a cake filled with nuts and raisins. All the members of the extended family enjoy the feast together.
I have received permission to use this is my blog. This was taken from Dave and Beth Jolly’s newsletter. They are currently raising support and planning on moving to Arad, Romania as full-time missionaries with their family. Please keep them in your prayers as they prepare to come to Romania. Thanks! You are welcome to check out their blog. Here is the link: http://thejollysjourney.com/