Christmas, or "Craciun" in Romania, as in almost all other countries, is celebrated on 25th of December. This season is very special for the Romanians because it heralds a cluster of festivals. Month long Christmas celebrations start from the 6th of December, on Saint Nicholas Day, followed by the Ignat Day on the 20th of December, Christmas Eve on the 24th of December, Christmas on 25th December, New Year Eve on the 31st of December, Saint Basils Day on the 1st of January, Boboteaza (Epiphany Day) on the 6th of January and Santion (Saint John's Day) on the 7th of January. So, it is obvious that the preparations for this festival season can be very hectic. Not only this, Romania's Christmas traditions are much different from those of other countries. Being religious and proud of their ancient tradition, Romanians still have managed to keep their pagan rituals and legends alive. If you are curious to know about Romanian Christmas celebrations, continue reading to explore how Romanians celebrate Christmas.
Christmas Traditions & Customs In Romania
Grandfather Krechun And St. Nicholas
The concept of Santa Claus is slightly different in Romania. Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus are different in Romanian tradition. Saint Nicholas makes his visit on 6th of December, whereas Grandfather Krechun, the Romanian version of Santa Claus, brings Christmas gifts and Christmas tree on the 25th of December. According to Romanian belief, the stable where Christ was born, belongs to Grandfather Krechun.
Romanian Christmas season is characterized by melodious carols sung by children, especially on the first day of Christmas. The children hold paper stars painted with biblical scenes and the leader of the carol group holds a beautifully embellished wooden star called "Steaua". Carolers get many gifts from each house, in return for their performance. These gifts can be apples, nuts, traditional cakes or even money. The practice of singing carols is known as "Colinide". "Steaua", "TreiPastori" and "Mos Craciun" are some of the popular Romanian Christmas carols.
Ignatius is performed five days prior to Christmas i.e. on the 20th of December, in honor of Saint Ignatius. This occasion is characterized by sacrificing a pig which is done in each and every Romanian household. Interestingly, the pigs chosen for sacrifice are well-fed, often weighing an average of 300 pounds. The sacrifice is usually done in the backyard of the house by slitting the pig's throat with a sharp knife. Once the matriarch fills the pig's snout with straws and singes it, the patriarch makes a symbol of cross on the animal's head. The blessed meat is then cooked and the "pig's funeral feast" is served to family members and friends.
Ajunul Craciunului Celebrations
The term "Ajunul Craciunuli" implies Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve celebration starts with the decoration of Christmas trees. This is followed by the ritual of exchanging gifts. "Mos Craciun" or Grandfather Krechun, the Romanian Santa Claus, delivers Christmas gifts to children. Unlike in other countries, children do not leave any toffees or cookies for their Santa. Knot-shaped bread, sweets, fruit, nuts and pastries are some of the common Christmas gifts.
Romanian Christmas dinner or "Craciun" is a multi-course meal. Lip smacking recipes including different types of sausages, plum wine, pickles and Sarmale (pickled cabbage stuffed with beef and pork, thyme, rice and spices) are some of the traditional dishes served. The elaborate dinner ends with the "Cozonaci", a cake filled with raisins and nuts.
Romanian Christmas celebrations follow a different tradition that has more similarities with the old-world. While Christmas around the world is celebrated in a modern avatar, Romanians still hold their tradition and rituals dear to their hearts.
Read about Christmas and its traditions & customs in Romania and Romanian Christmas carols.