As we head for our next destination on our Christmas tour around the world, we leave Christmas in Puerto Rico and travel northeast for 8,680km to Romania.
Located in southeast Europe, Romania covers an area of 238,397 square km and has a population more than 19 million people.
Romania is well known for its Transylvania region thanks to the link with the Dracula legend. Romania also has many medieval towns that lend themselves nicely to the stories.
An extremely picturesque country, the Transfăgărășan Road provides an amazing scenic route through the Făgăraș Mountains.
Romania's capital, Buchrest, is home to the world's second largest administrative building, second only to the Pentagon in the USA. It may not be the largest building, but it is the world's heaviest building as certified by Guinness World Records.
So, how do they celebrate Christmas in Romania?
In Romania, they celebrate Christmas on 25th December. 20th December is St. Ignatius's Day, and 6th December is Sfantul Nicolae's Day (St Nicholas).
Romania has no state religion but most of the population (at least 80%) are Orthodox Christians. Romania is the most religious of the European countries.
A Christmas Tree is a popular decoration and is put up and decorated on Christmas Eve.
If the family keeps pigs, then on St. Ignatius’s Day, it’s traditional to kill one and use the meat to make the Christmas meals.
On the evening of December 5th, many children will clean their shoes and leave them by the door in the hopes that Sfantul Nicolae will fill them with presents. The presents are typically small and mostly sweets while naughty children only receive a rod.
If it snows on December 6th, the myth claims that it’s because Sfantul Nicolae has shaken his beard to begin winter. However, this celebration is thought of as separate from Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, many children will go door-to-door carol singing and dancing in exchange for sweets, fruit, money, and traditional cakes (called ‘cozonaci’). Adults usually tend to go carol singing on Christmas Day during the evening. The carol singers often take a paper star decorated with tinsel, silver foil, and bells on a pole, with them. The star often has a picture of baby Jesus or the nativity scene in the centre, and it’s the focus point of a traditional Romanian carol called the ‘Star Carol’. Carol singers may also have a ‘Capra’ with them which is someone dressed up as a goat with a multi-coloured mask who dances around and causes all sorts of mischief. Also going round the streets on Christmas Eve is a ‘dubasi’ which is a drumming band, usually made up of around 50-60 unmarried men, who perform in exchange for presents.
The main Christmas-related gift bringer is 'Moş Crăciun' (Old Man Christmas). Families will get together for Christmas which is especially important for Romanian families as many Romanians live outside of the country, or live in the cities away from their family.
Many people will take part in the ‘Nativity fast’ from November 14th – December 24th during which they aren’t allowed to have meat, eggs, or milk. The main Christmas dishes in Romania are; roast gammon, pork chops, 'Ciorba de perisoare’ (slightly sour vegetable soup made with pork meatballs and fermented bran), ‘Sarmale’ (cabbage leaves stuffed with ground pork which is served with polenta (boiled cornmeal) and ‘Cozonac’ (rich fruit bread). For dessert there’s cheesecake, ‘gogosi’ (Romanian doughnuts), ‘cozonaci’ (sponge cake with nuts and cocoa), and Turkish Delights.
Our next Christmas destination looks at the Christmas celebrations and customs in Spain.