Romania

The Romanians’ religion is Orthodox, but, unlike their Orthodox neighbors (Serbs, Bulgarians, Russians), they celebrate Christmas and the other religious festivals and holidays according to the Gregorian calendar (i.e. the holidays coincide with those of the Catholic and Protestant believers). The winter holiday season starts with the day of St. Nicholas (December 6) and ends a month later, on St. John’s day (January 7). People bearing the names of Nicholas, John, or Basil (January 1) throw large parties for their friends. Christmas trees are decorated with garlands, balls, and special candies wrapped in shiny paper. On Christmas Eve groups of children go from house to house and sing carols or sometimes carry a large decorated star of Bethlehem and tell the story of the birth of Christ. Hosts reward them with oranges, cookies, or money. On Christmas Eve, family members, after giving presents to each another, sit down to a rich dinner, which among other courses, must feature sarmale (stuffed cabbage). Often, the dinner ends in caroling. On Christmas Day people go to church and then sit down to another big dinner where the great quantity of food is matched by the abundance of wine and spirits. New Year’s Eve is the time for children to team up again and go about their neighborhood. They make loud noises by cracking whips, ringing sheep bells, and reciting traditional poems for the New Year. This is similar to an old farm custom called plugu(orul (the plow). In this ceremony boys hold rods decked with paper flowers called sorcova and wish every passer-by wealth and happiness in the New Year. The departure of the Old Year and the arrival of the New one is yet another reason for friends and family to get together and party until dawn. Another kind of new year is observed throughout the month of March: women wear m(r(isor (little March) i.e. tassels of red and white thread with little charms attached to them, a custom honoring the onset of the new year in ancient Rome.