- The Little
Every year Romanian people knit two little tassels: a white
one and a red one. At the beginning of March, they offer this
amulet to the girls they love
In Moldavia, part of Romania,
all persons can receive a little March amulet. Red means love
for everything that is beautiful and white symbolizes the
pureness and health of the snowdrops, the first flowers that
appear in spring. That is the first celebration of spring
The Legend of March Amulet
Once upon a time, the Sun embodying a handsome young man,
got down from the sky to dance a "hora" in a village.
A dragon lay in wait for him and kidnapped him from among
the people and threw him into a jail. The world got sad. The
birds wouldn't flow and the children wouldn't laugh. No one
dared to challenge the bad dragon. But one day a brave young
man decided to go and save the Sun. Lots of people saw him
off and shared their strength with him. So they helped him
defeat the dragon and save the Sun. His journey lasted for
three seasons: summer, autumn and winter. He found the dragon's
castle and they started to fight. They fought for days and
finally the dragon was killed.
Powerless and wounded, the young man set the Sun free. The
Sun rose in the sky cheering up all the people and filling
them with joy. The nature revived, the people got happy, but
the young man couldn't live to see spring coming. The warm
blood from his wounds dropped on the snow. While the snow
was melting white flowers, called snowdrops, messengers of
the spring, were appearing out of the snow. Even his last
drop of blood dripped out in the immaculate snow. And he died.
Since then the young people have been knitting two little
tassels: a white one and a red one. At the beginning of March,
they offer this amulet to the girls they love
love for everything that is beautiful. It reminds us of the
colour of the brave young man's blood. White symbolizes the
pureness and health of the snowdrops, the first flowers that
appear in spring.
The Paparuda "Rain Caller" is the ritual
celebrated in Spring on a date that varies from place to place.
An old magical dance invoking rain, this customs survived
to the present day in many village of Romania. The children
knit coronets, adorning them with ribbons. Then they dance,
going from house to house. The hostess throws water and milk
after them. The children and the young people have to receive
a coin or wheat, corn, flour or bean.
Caloianul, Romanian Rainmaker
"Caloianul" is a figure used in Romanian village
rite rainmaker. He looks like a man and it is adorned with
flowers. On summer time, women and children from the dryness
regions gather and model this "Caloian". They invoke
the rain and her advantages through the procession they will
take part. Everybody gather then at the border of the village.
They also can invite the priest of the village and together
they adorn a young tree. They use fresh fruit pretzels and
candies. After that all group simulate the funeral of the
"Caloian". First they walk this one on the dry fields.
In the end they bury the "Caloian" throwing"
it into a river. The waters of the river must carry it far
away, bringing thus rains.
All the procession times, the children and women cry and mourn.
The priest tells prayers for the invoker of the rain. In other
Romanian regions dancing and singing accompany this ritual.
For several times the invoked rain is appearing even at day
or two after this ritual. On popular belief it is said that
only the "Caloian" has unfastened the rains.
This very ancient agrarian custom is connected with the harvest,
still survives sporadically in certain villages in the south
of Romania. The learned prince Dimitrie Cantemir described
it for the first time in his famous work "Descriptio
Moldaviae", written about 1715.
The "Drãgaicas" are little girls of 11 to
12 years old, adorned with ears of corn. One of them is dressed
as a bride and another one is dressed as a boy named "Draganu".
Sometimes Draganu is a boy. He holds the banner of the "Drãgaicas":
a pole with a rag-doll with outstretched arms, made of ears
of corn or of a bunch of ears and with wormwood and garlic
at its top.
The "Drãgaicas" sing and dance in a circle
without holding hands. At intervals they whirl round and yell
and the Dragan, the boy, whistles on an ordinary whistle.
Wishing to amplify the performance, the little girls have
added to the original ritual dance other dances borrowed from
the grown up dancer. A flute-player or a piper who accompany
them plays the music.
Saint Nicholas Day
The old Saint Nicholas arrives in Romania on the 6th of December,
every year. His coming announces the beginning of the winter
holidays, the Christmas and the New Year. Saint Nicholas is
generous not only with the children, but the adults, too.
On the evening of the 5th of December, the boots are being
happily polished in every home. People usually put the boots
near the entrance door, waiting for the presents.
Saint Nicholas takes care of each member of the family. He
puts a little present into every one's boots. But who is Saint
Nicholas? The parents, of course. And who is the one who puts
presents in the parents' boots? The rest of family. This custom
is very old in Romania, and Saint Nicholas Day is one of the
most important festivals of the year, especially for the children.
All that is known of Nicholas is that he was Bishop of Myra
in Asia Minor during the 4th century. Legend tells how a noble
but poor man was thinking of prostituting his three daughters
because he was unable to provide them with a dowry. Nicholas
threw three golden balls or bags of gold through the window
of their house and withdrew unseen, thereby saving them from
Once, seamen threatened by a violent storm invoked Nicholas,
and he appeared, and assisted them with the rigging until
the storm died down.
When famine spread through his bishopric, Nicholas learned
that several ships were anchored in the harbour laden with
grain. The saint promised the fearful sailors that if they
gave the grain to his starving people, the customs men would
not find their cargo short. Nicholas was also said to have
saved three soldiers from decapitation; had an innocent prince
released from prison; and brought to life three children hidden
in a brine
tub who had been murdered by their innkeeper father to feed
to his guest during a plague.
He is patron saint of sailors and of children, and also the
origin of Father Christmas- Santa Claus being a derivative
of St Nicholas- an identification probably derived from his
patronage of children and his charitable acts of presenting
gifts by night.
The Goat Tradition
This custom lasts from Christmas until New Year. The masks
of only one animal, whose name varies from a region to another,
replace many times the biblical characters: stag in Hunedoara,
goat or "turcã" in Moldavia and Ardeal, "boritã"
in South Transylvania.
This custom is also called "brezaia" in Wallachia
and Oltenia, because of the multicoloured appearance of the
mask. A noisy children group accompanies the mask.
The goat jumps, jerks, turns round, and bends, clattering
regularly the wooden jaws.
In town, this show is to be remarked by its originality of
the costumes and of the choreography.
The most important custom during winter festivals is the carol.
On Christmas' Eve only children go caroling. This custom is
different from the proper caroling, where only the grown-ups
participate. After the 23/24 midnight of December the children
go caroling from one house to another. They get sweets, fruit
and even money. In some parts of the country there is a custom
named "Icon walking" that symbolizes Jesus birth.
The real caroling happens on Christmas evening and night.
The waits -young and mature people - gather in well-organized
groups and they choose a leader. When they are in the yard
of a house they perform their repertory to the host. The songs
are always accompanied by dance. When they are over the host
invites the waits in the house for a special meal and presents.
Every year on the 25th of December it's Christmas, a special
day in our life, a time for families to be together and enjoy
each other's company. Yesterday, we repeated some Romanian
carols for Christmas Eve. First of this celebration is the
firtree's decoration with globes painted in many colours.
We also decorate all our rooms with firtree branches. During
the night we will eat traditional Romanian Christmas food:
force-meal rolls in cabbage or in wine leaves, sausages, blood
pudding and cozonac (a Romanian Christmas cake).
Another custom that is still alive in the countryside is called
"The Table" and it is performed on Saint Vasile's
Day. A group of four boys and girls gather together round
of a table. On each corner of it is placed one of the following
four objects: a coin, a slice of corn musk, a mirror and piece
of coal. The participants know the meaning of the four objects,
but they don't know where placed are because the objects are
covered by a tablecloth.
The children have to choose one table corner. He/ She who
will find the coin will gain money. He/ She who will find
the corn musk will have food. He who will find the mirror
will have a beautiful face and a pure and noble soul. The
fourth will be unlucky because he/ she finds the piece of
On the first day of the New Year children from Moldova region
are involved in a special ritual. That is the most spread
ritual used for future prediction. Children, junior girls
and boys, make a "bridge" of a small branch in a
pitchfork shape. A stick is placed across between the two
rides of the branch. It symbolizes a connection between the
old and New Year. Each child should have her/his run bridge.
She/ He may dream on the first New Year night her/his destiny.
Nativity Drama - Viflaimul
Played from Christmas to Epiphany, Nativity Drama is a form
of folk theatre, which represents the birth of Jesus. Inspired
by clerical literature from the bible texts, Nativity Drama
keeps the hints from the traditional carol. Other forms of
folk theatre developed on outlaws' stories, structure, which
circulated in different regions of our country. A fight between
the old and the New Year often precedes the show, and in the
end of it is a carol.
The Little Plough -Plugusorul
"Plugusorul" is a small plough but in Romanian folklore
is a traditional procession with a decorated plough, on New
Years' Day. This is a well wishing for the field bearing on
New' Years Day. This custom arises from "Carmen arvale",
a wish from the Romans from the protection of the crops. The
ploughmen are teenagers and children having whip, bells and
pipes in the hands. Their noises accompany the well wishing.
"Sorcova" is a bouquet used for New Year's wishes.
Children wish to the people a happy New Year while touching
them lightly with this bouquet. It is a children's tradition
of invoking the divinity of vegetation for the health and
wealth of the host in the morning of the first day of the
New Year. The 10 - year old children, after they have wished
a happy New Year to the members of the family, go to their
neighbors and relatives. "Sorcova" is made up of
one or several fruit - tree twinges (apple-tree, pear-tree
cherry-tree, plum-tree); all of them are put into water, in
warm place, on November 30th, in order to bud and to blossom
on new year's Eve. Nowadays people use an apple-tree or pear-tree
twig decorated with colored paper and flowers made up of colored
"Sorcova" is a symbol of fertility, health and purity.
The children touch everybody slightly with "sorcova",
wishing them to blossom like apple-tree and pear-tree, to
live and grove old like these and to be as strong as a stone
or as iron.
The children get all kinds of gifts such as: cakes, honeycombs,
biscuits, pretzels, candies, money.
The Bear Custom
This custom is known only in Moldavia, part of Romania,
on the Christmas Eve.
The bear was embodied by a young man wearing the coat of a
killed animal that was adorned with red tassels on its ears
on his head and shoulders. Sometimes, the mask used to be
made in a common way: the bear's head was made of wood skeleton
covered with a coat and its body of a rough cover, adorned
in such a way so it might suggest its characteristic brown
threads. The mask was accompanied by a young man wearing a
bear coat and by fiddlers and followed by a whole procession
of characters, among a child as a bear's cub might be. Roused
by the young man wearing the bear's coat who sang:
"Dance well, you old bear, / Because I give bread and
olives." the mask grumbled and imitated the jerky steps
of the bear, striking violently against the earth with his
soles, while the drums and the pipe were playing.
For the invocation of fertility, but also with an aim of the
healing of certain diseases, the "Cãlusari",
"Cãlusul", or "jocul cãlusarilor"
(the dance of the Cãlusari) is danced at Whitsuntide.
It was also described for the first time by Dimitrie Cantemir,
and known in olden times in all the regions of Romania. It
has completely disappeared in Moldavia but not without leaving
certain traces in some men's dances of the region, while in
Transylvania and the Banat, it was put aside and replaced
by a drawing-room dance. On the other hand, in Oltenia, Wallachia
and in the certain parts of Dobrogea, the old dance of the
"Cãlusari" was preserved in fairly well knit
forms. Generally the custom has the following aspect: after
having bound themselves by oath to dance together for a certain
numbers of years and to respect the discipline imposed by
tradition, the dancers begin their rehearsals. The team, under
leadership of a captain, is generally composed of an old number
of dancers. One of them, " (the dumb man), is masked.
He is nowadays the buffoon of the troup, but it seems that
formerly he had a much more important role. The Cãlusari
wear a special festive costume and hold sticks, while the
''mut'' carries a sword in his hand. According to Dimitrie
Cantemir, in his time all the Cãlusari held swords.
The troup carriers a banner: a pole adorned with coloured
ribbons and a bunch of wormwood and garlic at its top, healing
herbs sought by the onlookers. The dance of the "Cãlus''
is performed during a whole week, White week or "Calus_week"
as it is also called, during which the team also visits some
neighbouring localities. The dance composed of a circular
promenade of the dancers, which alternates with more and more
intricate figures, has special dynamic and is extremely spectacular.
In the course of time this dance seems to have absorbed into
itself several other ritual dances- war dances, fertility,
healing dances, hence its complex character. Of recent years,
the dance of the Cãlusari, relieved of its former magic
function, has been taken over and turned to account by a number
of amateur and professional artistic teams, sometimes with
resounding success in performances.
Weddings also preserve various traditions. The songs are performed
by musicians and even by the wedding guests themselves. A
varied melody, sometimes even with a varied text, is "A
miresei" (To the bride), song either at the solemn moment
when the bride takes leave of her parents and her home, or
when she changes her maiden head-gear for that of a wife.
Her leave-taking of her former life, the description of her
life in her parents' house in comparison with that in her
parents-in-law's, the change from appeal to the sun a to lengthen
the day, the sorrow of the mother's who loses her daughter,
and the joy of the mother-in-law who acquires her as daughter-in-law,
the comparison of the maidens with apples on a branch: when
they ripen their number lessens; these are the topics most
often encountered in the songs for the bride.
The Burial ceremony
The ceremonies connected with death and burial seem to
be the best -preserved of Romanian folk customs. In the north
of Moldavia and of Transilvania, death is announced to the
village by the sound of alphorns. Two - seldom one - sometimes
four and even six alphorn players accompany the funeral procession
and blow signals called: About the dead, Following the dead,
For the dead, The accompanying of the dead or "The Hora
of the dead", especially for young people and sometimes
for shepherds only.
The alphorn is blown in the dead man's yard, at early dawn,
at noon, in the evening and sometimes at night during the
wake; likewise on the way to the churchyard, over the grave,
after the coffin has been covered with earth. The calls played
for the dead are different from the pastoral ones: "as
for the dead, "more doleful." An extensive zone
in the west of the country, comprising the north of Oltenia,
the Banat and the neighbouring Hunedoara knows a series of
ceremonial funeral songs, which are sung by experienced women
appointed to the task, who must not be close relations of
the dead person. The songs are sung at certain moments of
the burial, with a strict observance of the unwritten laws
of tradition. Foremost among these songs in the " Song
of the Dawn" which announces the death to the village
at early dawn. Another important ceremonial funeral song is
"Cântecul bradului, Al cetinii sau Al sulitii"
("The Song of the Pine", "Of the pine needles"
or "Of the spear"). This is sung for those that
died young and unmarried, for the fir-tree brought from the
wood and decorated represents the wedding fir-tree. The poetical
text contains the lament of the fir-tree who complains that
if was made to believe it would be used in the building of
a house, when in fact it will be left to wither at the head
of the grave.
There are also other songs such as "La fereastra"
(At the window), "Al drumului" (Of the way), "De
petrecut" (For the accompanying), "Al gropii"
(Of the grave) and others. They comprise instructions for
the dead person, for the way he must take; he is advised to
make friends with the otter who knows about the waters and
the fords, and with the wolf who knows the secret pathways
of the forests. In these songs " Samodiva" is mentioned
who notes down with red ink the living and with black ink
the dead. They tell about the quarrel of the cuckoo with Death,
and so on. The poems of these ancient "songs of the dead"
are often of rare beauty. But the most important burial songs
are the "bocete" (dirges), known all over the country.
Sung by female relations and close friends of dead, they are
"a melodic overflow of sorrow" at the dead person's
bedside, in the yard, on the road, in the church-yard during
the burial and subsequently on certain dates destined for
the commemoration of the dead. The texts of the dirges, besides
expressing the sorrow of those left behind, often contain
elements with a powerful social content, which are echoes
character of folklore is obvious at every step, both in the
dirges for the orphan children and regret at separation from
"the love of the world" are but a few of the topics
of these moving songs.
Saint Andrew's Day
The Romanian celebrations and customs of late November
and early December coincide with the season of the Thracian's
Bacchanalia and the Roman's Saturnalia, in the calendar.It
was at the time of those celebrationsthat the founding fathers
of the Christian Church established the celebration of Apostole
Andrew.He was the one who has spread the belief in Jesus in
the area of the Danube and Black Sea in the first decades
of the first millennium of the Christian era.The Christian
celebration gained ground in the belivers' minds, so the night
of November 29/30 has become a time of ritual and magic practices.
Magic practices of purification and protection of people,
cattle, houses and all family precincts are performed in many
villages of Bukovina and Moldova on St. Andrew's Day.The women's
main weapon against evil spirits is garlic.Garlic is eaten
in abundance, either as cloves or garlic sauce at the dinner
of November 29.The housewife will put garlic cloves at every
door, window, and chimney, which is to say she puts a symbolic
mark.Every place of the house communicates with the world
St.Andrew's Day is the time when young girls' fate can be
foretold, as well as the future crops: the old 'readers in
stars' observe the sky and predict a rich or a poor year,
a rainy or a dry year.
In southern Romania, in Oltenia, people grow wheat grains
in a clay jar and have ways to tell their future from it.
St. Ignatius' Day
The bloody sacrifice of pigs occurs on Ignat, Ignatius' Day,
on December the 20th.Romanian beliefs and customs that are
related to the Ignat are symbolic relics of the pagan ritual
sacrifice:the prediction of the animals violent death, its
capture and stabbing, and its portioning; the pork funeral
feast with dishes of pork meat and organs, as well as tuica:the
romanian brandy and wine, in abundance.The custom has been
practiced throughout Romania.