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Winter Customs in Romanian Villages

  • Date Submitted: 10/14/2010 06:04 AM
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Winter Customs in Romanian Villages

Few people in today's world maintain and cherish their age-old customs, as do the villagers of Romania. Hardly a week goes by without a religious or secular festival somewhere in Romania. Some of the best, however, take place between Christmas and New Year's.

For the grandest winter spectacle, head to Romania's northwestern corner by December 27 when the "Festivalul Datinilor de Iarna" (Winter Customs Festival) takes place in the town of Sighetu Marmatiei.

When a group reaches the reviewing stand, they earn a few minutes in the spotlight for a carol, a folk dance or a tune on old instruments such as the "trambita," an extremely long horn, or the "buhai," a small barrel through which horsehairs are pulled. Some young men ride beautiful horses with evergreen and ribbons braided into the mane and tails and red tassels hanging from the bridle. Gorgeous handmade saddle cloths are ablaze with patterns of colorful flowers. Signaling the end, a horse-drawn sleigh filled with white-jacketed youths, musicians and of course, Santa Claus passes by the crowd. Throughout the afternoon, folk musicians, singers and dancers perform from a stage set up by city hall.

In many villages, especially in the northeastern province of Moldavia, December 31 is the big day — not eve, mind you, but morning. The tradition-packed outdoor event I observed in Verona, a 45-minute drive from the city of Suceava, is typical. The weather may have been chilly but neither participants nor onlookers seemed to notice. First, a choir of schoolgirls sang old carols. Animal skin winter jackets failed to completely hide their embroidered blouses, flowered belts and long striped skirts from which the lacy edge of white under-skirts peeked. Colorful hand-woven shoulder bags and black head scarves completed the costumes which are unique to the area.

Soon, this idyllic scene gave way to the whistles and shouts of young men who galloped out for a spirited dance of...


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