The North-West Transylvania is one of the few areas of Romania where traditions have been preserved intact from generation to generation. You can still see people dressed in traditional clothes on the narrow streets of Maramures, at the field works, in the village centre, at the holidays over the year, or at the church service. The Maramures people are proud of their national costumes. The customs and traditions here are as vivid as a hundred years ago.
In this part of Romania, it seems that time has stopped, people enjoying the holidays over the year, the important family events, but also the field works. Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and St. Mary are occasions for celebration and dance the “hora”, but also for praying and fasting.
Easter Traditions and Customs
Easter is a celebration full of meaningful symbols, of beautiful strictly enshrined customs and traditions. One custom is that every person, no matter how poor, has to wear something new on Easter.
For this celebration the villagers paint eggs, prepare “pasca” (Easter sweet cream cheese cake) and other traditional dishes. On this occasion, they also prepare “chigala”. It is a traditional cake that is only prepared before Easter, of fluffy dough, with plum jam and poppy seeds. Participation to the Resurrection Service is a customary ritual of Transylvanian families. Children like to go from house to house and proclaim the Lord’s Resurrection, and instead they receive red eggs.
There is another tradition in this part of the country, in which the men in the village compete in knocking eggs.
Christmas and New Year’s Traditions and Customs
Mararmures, for example, is one of the few areas in Romania where traditions and customs have remained unchanged over time. Residents of this area are keepers of ancient traditions, passed on from generation to generation. In these places of Romania, the winter holidays are expected by the little ones, as well as by the grownups.
Carols, songs about the star, “Viflaimul” (Bethlehem), “sorcova” (bouquet used for New Year’s wishes), masks games, dances or “plugusorul” (traditional procession with a decorated plough) are beautiful traditions and customs, giving a special charm to the winter holidays. The Transylvanians value a lot the entire Christmas and New Year’s period. The preparation begins with the feast, cleaning the house and the household, and ends with the last holidays in January.
The customs such as, “Steaua” (the Star) and “Capra” (the Goat) are still alive and anxiously expected by the children, as they start carolling from house to house announcing the Nativity. Instead they receive nuts, apples or knot-shaped bread. The carol “Viflaimul” (the Bethlehem) is not missing on Christmas. Performed as a folk theatre play, with biblical characters, “Viflaimul” is one of the most authentic winter traditions of Romania. “Mosilor” (the Old Men) game is another colourful custom on winter, the carol singers going from door to door wishing health and happiness to the hosts.
It is also beneficent with the occasion of important holidays that the people should wash their faces with water containing silver coins. In this way, it is said that they will be wealthy and healthy. Another Christmas tradition is the decoration of the fir trees with ornaments made of willow twigs, coloured paper, beans, popcorn and mistletoe.
On New Year’s Eve, there is another unique custom only in this part of the country, namely “Stealing the Gates”. The lads in the village come to steal the gates of households where single marriageable girls live.
Pentecost Traditions and Customs
The Pentecost or the Descent of the Holy Spirit holiday occurs 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus holiday. It is believed that on this day, the souls of the dead return to the places where they belonged. In this part of Romania, many Pentecost holidays traditions are preserved.
“Impanatul boului” (Ox Adornment) or “Papalugara” (Fright or Ghost) are rituals in which all young people in the village participate. They go on the field where they pick flowers from which they realize a wreath. The flower wreath is then placed between the horns of a bull, offered by a householder of the village, and then the ox is walked through the village.
The “Papalugara” Parade procession starts from one end of the village to the other, entering into every household where they are expected with drinks, money and food. In this way the bad spirits are driven away. During Pentecost, people decorate their houses and stables with lime tree branches.
- 1 “Mihai Viteazul” (Michael the Brave) – rural celebration
- 2 “La fântâna dorului” (At the Sorrow Fountain) – folk festival
- 3 The Onion Festival
- 4 Negreni Fair
- 5 The Grapes Ball
- 6 Folklore and folk art afferent to the tradition of Beius Fair
- 7 The Slovakian Potatoes Holiday
- 8 Aeternus Maramorosiensis – Medieval Festival of Sighetu Marmatiei
- 9 The “Salajean Village” Festival – Porolissum
- 10 Autumn on Ierului Valley