In Romania, the winter holiday season is truly in full-swing from December 24 to January 7. Highlights include: Christmas Day, New Year and Epiphany, with their respective eves. The most important feature of these celebrations is their unique variety of colorful Romanian customs, traditions, and believes, of artistic, literary, musical, and other folklore events, which make the winter holidays some of the most original and spectacular spiritual manifestations of the Romanian people.
The celebration of the New Year’s Eve in Romania has a totally traditional flavor. Romanians welcome the New Year with the customs, rituals and conventions that have been around for centuries.
The children as well as the adults, take part in the joyous celebrations with great enthusiasm. On New Year’s Eve in Romania, small school going children sing Plugusorul and Sorcova. The songs wish good luck, happiness and success.
The day also has goat’s game, the bear’s game and the masks’ game as part of the festivities. These are also old Romanian customs. The Bear, the Goat, the Bunghiers, the Caiutii, the Malanca, the Jiens and the Masked are always expected to make their appearance on the New Year’s Eve. All these are associated with the worshipping of Sun. The strength and vitality of the customs is remarkable. The music and dance are combined with highly expressive masks to make a striking combination.
Some of the masks are really works of art and the real jewels on them definitely add to their value. New Year’s Eve in Romania has another very interesting custom. It is known as the Vergel. Through Vergel, efforts are made to know the future and in this highly mysterious act both the young unmarried people and their parents take part. The Vergel is mainly used to know what is in store in the coming year or New Year and whom the unmarried will get married to.
On New Year’s Eve, children sing Plugusorul and Sorcova. In their songs, they wish good luck, happiness and success. You can hear the ringing of the bells and the bull sounds. The goat’s game, the bear’s game and the masks’ game are old Romanian customs.
The Bear, the Goat, the Bunghiers, the Caiutii, the Malanca, the Jiens and the Masked are expected to show up on New Year’s Eve. All of these stand for an original way of expressing the ritual associations of animals with almost universal worshiping of the Sun. The ceremonial structure of the custom is equally full of strength and vitality. The music and dance, both remarkable through their virtuosity and dynamism, the highly expressive masks, they all make up a unique spectacle. It is the masks that tell the most about the imagination and humor of the Romanian villager. Some of them have become genuine jewels of folk art.
An old tradition is that the year that is just beginning will be sunny and with rich harvests for the families that will leave the lamp alit on the New Year’s night until the dawn.
Also on the New Year’s morning, some traditional families toss money into the water where they wash their hands, counting on the fact that this will bring them money during the entire following year. Elderly people claim that their parents and grand-parents would put silver or even gold coins in the water when such coins were in use. Almost at the midnight of the 31st of December, the peasants foresee the weather in the following year, using large onion peels which the peel off and order by the months of the year. They put some salt on each of them. On the 1st of January, on St. Vasile’s Day, the one able to undo witchcraft and spells shall check the level of the liquid left by the melted salt in each of the onions peels. This is how they will know if there is going to be rain or draught.
Also on New Year’s Eve, as we said before, another custom is the Vergel which is a mysterious act meant to prospect the future, in which unmarried young people and their parents take part. The one practicing the Vergel want to know what the future year holds for them, and most of all if and whom they will marry.
Sorcova is a special bouquet used for New Year’s wishes early New Year’s morning. Children wish people a “Happy New Year!” while touching them lightly with this bouquet. After they have wished a Happy New Year to the members of their family, the children go to the neighbors and relatives. Traditionally, the “Sorcova” bouquet was made up of one or several fruit – tree twigs (apple-tree, pear-tree, cherry-tree, plum-tree); all of them are put into water, in warm place, on November 30th (St. Andrew’s Day), in order to bud and to blossom on New Year’s Eve.
May your health be strong
And you life long:
As an apple tree
As a pear stately
As a rose bush fair
Blossoming beyond compare:
Strong as a granite rock
Quick as an arrow’s shock
Hard as an iron bar
Tougher than steel by far,
Over summer, over spring,
May your health be great
A New Year with happiness
And in everything success.
The Little Plough – Plugusorul
Plugusorul is a small plough. In Romanian folklore is a traditional procession with a decorated plough, on New Years’ Eve. This is a well wishing custom for the field fruitfulness into the new year. This custom arises from “Carmen arvale”, a Roman wish for bountiful crops.
The ploughmen are teenagers and children carrying whips, bells and pipes in their hands.
by Nine oClock