In Romania, Christmas and mid-winter celebrations last from 20th December to 7th January. The 20th is called ‘Ziua de Ignat’ or simply ‘Ignat Day’. It is traditional that if the family keep pigs, one is killed on this day by the head of the household. The meat from the pig is used in the Christmas meals. After the pig is killed, the family members share a dish called ‘Pomana Porcului’ (Pork’s Charity) which is traditionally cooked in a cauldron and consists of a variety of pork bits (pork belly, shoulder, liver, kidneys, etc.) in a garlic sauce and served with polenta. The name ‘Ignat Day’ comes from the 20th is also the saint day of ‘Saint Ignatius of Antioch’ and also ‘Saint Ignatius, Archimandrite of the Kiev Caves’ in some churches.
Sfantul Nicolae’s Day (St Nicholas) is celebrated on the 6th December. On the evening of the 5th December children clean their shoes or boots and leave them by the door and hope that Sfantul Nicolae will leave them some small presents! Sfantul Nicolae might also be called ‘Moş Nicolae’ (Old Man Nicholas) and although he is celebrated in December, it’s not part of the Christmas celebrations! A tradition says that if it snows on December 6th, Sfantul Nicolae has shaken his beard so that winter can begin.
The Christmas celebrations really begin on Christmas Eve, 24th, when it’s time to decorate the Christmas Tree. This is done in the evening of Christmas Eve. In Romanian, Christmas Eve is called ‘Ajunul Craciunului’.
Carol singing (known as ‘Colindatul’) is also a very popular part of Christmas in Romania. On Christmas Eve, children go out carol singing from house to house performing to the adults in the houses. They normally dance as well. The children get sweets, fruit, traditional cakes called ‘cozonaci’ and sometimes money for singing well. Adults go carol singing on Christmas Day evening and night.
A traditional Romanian Carol is the ‘Star Carol’. The star, made of coloured paper and often decorated with tinsel, silver foil and sometimes bells, is put on a pole. In the middle of the star is a picture of baby Jesus or a nativity scene. Carol singers take the star with them when they go carol singing.
A personal story:
By Bogdan Băcilă
Q1. What do you have for Christmas dinner?
In Romania the traditional Christmas food is usually pork, prepared in different ways. From roasts to sausages, ham and bacon. It is usually accompanied by vegetables and wine.
Q2. What is your fondest memories of Christmas?
For me the fondest memories of Christmas, is going from house to house with the friends and family, carolling. This is similar to trick-or-treating, where people go each other’s houses and sing Christmas carols. The guest usually treats everybody with homemade sweets, cakes, fruits and wine.
Q3. What types of presents do you get from friends and family?
The presents we receive from family and friends are usually small things representative of Christmas, but also things that are known to be useful to the person receiving it.