Many of the people visiting Romania come here because they heard of the pretty ladies, the night life and the good food. Don’t get me wrong, these are all true my friends, but what about the culture and traditions of Romania? We have a saying here „One does not simply walk into Dracula’s country”. Ok, we definitely don’t say that, but the idea still stands tho’. Tourists should have a clue about the traditions of Romania before coming into the country. This is why in this article I will cover just a few of them.
First, we will speak about the ceremony before the wedding and one of the most intriguing traditions we have here: stealing the bride.
On her big day, the bride is helped by her mom and her friends to prepare for the wedding. In Romania it’s tradition for the groom to come to the bride’s house, pick her up and go to church for the religious ceremony. Before that, symbolically, the best man helps the groom to shave his beard. For this specific tradition they use a knife or in some cases an axe. I know how this sounds like, but trust me, it’s not as bad as you would think. Everybody actually has a good laugh. No groom was harmed during this tradition. Of course, not that I know of.
At midnight usually the best man and a few other guests steal the bride and take her somewhere to dance, have fun and in the meantime, the groom has no idea where she is. Of course, not until he receives a ransom call from the „kidnappers”. They can ask for a lot of things from money, alcohol, they can ask the groom to declare his love for his wife in front of everyone, they can challenge him to do crazy things, all of this just to prove how much he wants to rescue his wife and get her back.
It is fair to say that everybody enjoys this tradition and it’s a very anticipated moment at every wedding.
March is a fun month in Romania. We have something called choosing your „old lady” or „Babele” in Romanian. Ok, let me back up a little bit. The ancient tradition says that the old lady Dochia, responsible for bringing the cold weather, from 1-9 of March is letting go of her nine sheepskins one by one, sign that the weather is getting warmer.
The elderly believe that these days are some sort of standard as to how our year will look like. According to them, choosing one of these days will anticipate our state of mind for the rest of the year and our luck as well.
What everybody does is chose a day from 1-9 of March and depending on how that day will turn out, you can tell how the rest of the year will look like for you. If the day you chose is sunny with blue skies, you can expect a great year, but if it’s a rainy and cloudy day, you might encounter some challenges along the way. Now I understand you might ask „And how shall I choose one of these days?”. Good question.
There are two ways you can do this. It’s not written in stone and because this legend became tradition, every region in Romania has it’s own rules. You can decide randomly a day and stick with that one, or if you want to make your life even harder, there is another way. For instance: if your birthday is on the 12 you add one plus two and your day will be lucky number three. If your birthday is on the 15 you add one plus five and the day will be 6 of March. So on and so forth.
Behind all the fun and games, what this tradition really represents underneath it’s the last fight between winter and spring. When the old lady Dochia loses all her sheepskins means that the beautiful weather won the battle.
Moving forward, still in the month of March, we have another tradition that celebrates the Spring. This is one of the most beautiful traditions and it’s called „Mărțișor”. Unfortunately, there is no actual translation for this word. I will explain it tho’, don’t panic. This so cold mărțișor it’s an ancient symbol that marks the beginning of Spring season. Typically, this symbol was offered by men to women, so they can wear them all month long.
This particular symbol was created to be an amulet tied with a string woven of two threads – one white (symbolizing divinity, health, purity of soul and fulfillment) and the other one red (as a symbol of love for the eternal beauties of life: friendship, fidelity and honor).
In the popular tradition, the two colors (white and red) represent the two seasons (winter and summer), while spring and autumn are considered only passing seasons. Some popular legends say that this symbol was made by the old lady Dochia while climbing the mountains with her sheep. Over time, a silver coin was added to this string and the coin was associated with the sun. „Mărțișorul” becomes a symbol of fire and light, and therefore of the sun as well.
Almost forgot. At the end of March, when you are not supposed to wear the bracelet called „Mărțișor” anymore, you have to find a tree and tie it to one of its branches. The tradition says it will help the tree to be healthy and live longer.
I saved the best for last. Anyone who knows me at all knows I love Christmas and I can say being 100% objective (please feel the sarcasm here) that the traditions we have in Romania that time of the year are simply amazing.
Of course, every region in Roamânia has its own traditions and they can vary. What we all have in common tho’ is a love for the old traditions and passing them on to the next generations.
The area where I was born, Moldova, Christmas is an important holiday and each family makes preparations in advance for this occasion.
In winter, ancient customs and traditions are kept and are followed with holiness even to this day. In the villages, on Christmas Eve, groups of children gather to carol the villagers and they are compensated with baked goods. Children disguise themselves in different characters, such as the bear or goat and go door to door and spread the cheer of the holiday.
A well-known symbol is the Christmas tree. It existed in Romanian traditions long before the Christian era. Every family in Romania takes this tradition very seriously and it became a key moment in winter holidays.
Now that you are caught up with a few Romanian traditions, please let me know a not so well-known tradition from your country that I should know about.