The winter is at our doorstep and, in some countries, one could already enjoy the first snow. A few days ago, I got very excited about those ten minutes when the city was covered in a pure whiteness, and this first snow made me think about all the Romanian winter traditions. The ones I like most are from northern Romania, the Maramureș County. Here is a guide of how to celebrate the winter traditions as Romanians do in the Maramureș County.
The Romanian people start celebrating the winter traditions on November the 30th, a day dedicated (like in many other Orthodox countries) to Saint Andrew. There is not a certainty, but sometime in the late 20th century, the idea of Saint Andrew being one of the preachers who converted the Dacians, the Romanian ancestors, to Christianity started circulating. I remember the traditions we were practicing as children, my favorite being that you will dream of your prince charming if you sleep with a sprout under your pillow in the night before the Saint Andrew’s Day. If you are familiar with some other Romanian legends, like the ones of vampires, you won’t be surprised by the following tradition: you should rub garlic on your doors and windows to prevent the evil spirits entering your house. Like in all of Romania, these traditions are also practiced in the Maramureș County. One could opt to be a witness of these customs in Sapânța, one of the Maramureș famous villages.
I am sure most of you are familiar with Saint Nicholas celebrated on the 6th of December. It is a day for children and, similar to Christmas, the gifts are only offered to the children who behaved well in the past year. Moș Nicolae, the Romanian name of Saint Nicolas is, according to the traditions in Maramureș, an old secret gift-giving man, who is watching the gates over the sky and makes sure the sun rises every day.
I am almost sure, you are also familiar with the Christmas celebration, where Santa Claus delivers overnight gifts to all nice children. There are also a few local traditions in Maramureș I am glad to share with you. Some of these traditions have ancient origins and have the purpose of bringing wealth, health and prosperity. The locals put a horseshoe in a bucket a day before the Christmas. The first one who drinks from it is the farmer followed by all his animals. According to this custom, this will make all those who drink the water strong like iron. Starting with the Christmas Eve, it is a custom to start the caroling with local specific varieties called Capra or the Star. The traditional costumes and songs are a must, and I must admit, the whole atmosphere seems to bring joy to your heart.
There is a similar custom to caroling on the New Year Eve called Plugușoru, but what makes it special are all the good wishes that people sing out loud, and it is a habit to wish all the best to everybody you encounter. In Maramureș, people still dress the folk costumes for this event.
There is some magic around these winter traditions, and this magic is spread by the kindness and hospitality of the locals, the quiet and relaxing atmosphere and the smell of delicious food. Celebrating the Christmas as Romanians do in Maramureș is surely an experience one won’t forget.
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