Crăciun Fericit! This is the greeting that you’ll hear everywhere when you come to Romania during the winter holidays and maybe you’ve guessed what it means – yes, it’s how Romanians say “Merry Christmas“! There are so many traditions spanning over the course of December and knowing a little about them will surely add to the experience of visiting Bucharest in winter. You already know the most important phrase of the season so now let’s move on to talking about customs.
The winter holidays begin with Saint Nicholas Day (6 December), a favourite among children. On the evening of 5 December, every child makes sure to make their boots spotless clean because during the night Saint Nicholas comes and fills them up with sweets. It said that if it snows on this day, the winter ahead will be long and cold.
Around Christmas time, tradition has it that borrowed things have to be returned because it’s bad luck to keep them during the holidays.
As 25 December is closer and closer, you can feel de magical atmosphere everywhere. Christmas trees are decorated either on Christmas Eve or earlier and children go carol singing receiving in return usually sweets and fruit. A traditional Romanian carol is the “Star Carol” symbolising the nativity scene.
In many parts of Romania (Bucharest included!) a special tradition called “Capra” (The Goat) is always observed. As part of it one or several carol singers dress up as goats, wearing a multicoloured wooden mask, jumping and dancing around to a background of drums and pipes.
Carols and well wishing customs are in place all the way until New Year’s Day. “Plugușorul“, meaning “small plough”, is a traditional procession with a decorated plough, on New Years’ Day. The ploughmen are teenagers and children with bells, pipes and whips hoping for a good and fruitful year.
Another custom is for children to wish to the people a happy New Year while touching them lightly with a colourful bouquet called “Sorcova“. The children wish that the people blossom like apple-trees and pear-trees, live and grow old just like the trees and that they have the strength of stone and iron.
Although traditions are sometimes lost in the hectic city life, in Bucharest some are still very much alive. When you visit Bucharest, make sure to keep an eye out for these special traditions and let us know which one is your favourite!