Traditions across Europe-an eTwinning project

“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, TRADITION and myth frame our response.” (Arthur Schlesinger Jr.)

Winter holidays December 18, 2008

Filed under: Old traditions — ivasil @ 9:12 am


Holidays and customs grouped around the winter solstice (from December 20 to January 7), bare the generic name of winter holidays. This time of year  is open and closed by holidays prefaced by eves, such as Christmas and Epiphany, and in the middle of them there is the New Year’s Night. The major holidays of the cycle of winter – Christmas, New Year’s Day, Epiphany – have played trough the time the role of independent moments of the renewal of time and the beginning of the year. The Romanians used, besides the calendar officially recognized by the state and church, an unofficial calendar – popular calendar – created by people and passed from one generation to another through folklore. Unlike the official church calendar and civil calendar, which is a simple table of the days and weeks grouped by months, the popular calendar indicates the optimal time for ploughing and sowing, for finding a spouse or getting engaged, for the receiving the legacy from the ancestors or finding one’s destiny etc. Holidays and popular customs, which take place within a day or several days, by day or by night,  on a fixed or variable date, dedicated to divinities in the calendar, to people, animals, birds, plants, terrestrial and cosmic phenomena are known and respected, in some areas, until today. Some have taken the names of Christian saints, others have no connection with Christianity ( “Caloianul, Paparuda, Dragaica” etc.). Deities from the local Dacian heritage, or assimilated and borrowed from Greek, Roman and Oriental peoples, as well as old Romanian mythical creations form an original pantheon.
Carolling is a scenario composed of ceremonial texts (carols), magic formulas, dances, gestures, interpreted in the house and the street by a group of people. In the popular calendar, it appears under different names in different times of the year: around the winter solstice ( “The Star”, “Plugusorul, Sorcova”), the spring or the autumn equinox, the summer solstice. The carols usually bring a message for the new year wishing for health, prosperity, the fulfilment of the wishes. Carolling is the most widespread tradition of the Romanians. When people close the doors to carollers or do not offer gifts, magic effects are the opposite, because they have broken the rules.
On  the nights of December 23rd and 24th , from midnight until the morning, the streets of the  villages sound with the carollers’ small voices. In towns, they  meet from dawn till midnight.
The host offers them money or treats: pretzels, nuts, apples, buns. On Christmas Eve, and on the eve of New Year’s Day, in all the Romanian provinces, children form groups and go singing from one house to another. 
There are special carols for the New Year’s Day, as well as for Palm Sunday and Easter.
There are two kinds of carols: religious and secular ones. The religious have literary origin, and their topics are related mostly to Jesus. The profane (or worldly) carols have a lyrical character, and they are often adapted by the carollers to the situation of their listeners .

Merry Christmas!

Irina and the kids from School no. 92, Bucharest


2 Responses to “Winter holidays”

  1. Marie-France Says:

    Shall we?

    I remember the first Xmas spent by my son in France. My parents were still alive and were living in the country. My kid, three years old at that time, was wondering how Father Xmas could just come to deliver parcels to all the children in the world. Both my father and my incle went outside the house with a torch with a mysterious look on their faces. My son was told they were going to reveal to him a secret. They did! The light of the torch was directed on electric wires and my son was sure he could see Father Xmas and his reindeer stopped on the wires. By the time he came back into the house, the rest of the family had time to get the presents out of their hidden place and placed at the foot of the Xmas tree. He was more excited by what he had seen than by the presents. He still talks about it now and he is 21! That was his first real Christmas!
    So let’s be children once more this year.
    Marie-France from Britanny. France.

  2. ivasil Says:

    We have similar childhood memories. Those are things you can never forget.
    Merci de votre visite, Marie France, et Joyeux Noel!

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