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January 22, 2022

Christmas Eve – a season of carolling and well-wishing

One of the most common Romanian traditions, on Christmas Eve, is carolling, a ritual which is a mixture of ceremonial texts, dance and gestures. Thus, starting on the night of December 23 to 24, from midnight to daybreak, the village roads echo with the voices of carollers, wearing folk costumes, who visit the houses of neighbours, wishing them health, joy and prosperity in the year to come and receiving gifts of money or food: nuts, pretzels, apples, etc. Traditionally, people went carolling throughout the three days of Christmas, sometimes until Saint Basil’s Eve, and the star song may be heard, sometimes, until Epiphany. In general, Christmas-themed songs, with strong folk influences, were very popular with children, particularly the carols related to the star which heralded Christ’s birth: “Steaua sus rasare” (Yonder star that rises), “In orasul Vifleem” (In the town of Bethlehem) or “Trei crai de la Rasarit” (The three wise men). The first carol, which is usually sung at every home, is the door or window carol. This is a ritual address to the hosts, urging them to wake up from their slumber to welcome the carollers who bring them the tidings of Christ’s birth and to make ready for the great feast of the Birth of the Lord.


Tourists who will visit Bukovina on Christmas and New Year will be treated to a variety of folk performances, carols and ritual wishes. To draw more tourists, both the authorities and the owners of hotels and hostels in Bukovina have in store a wide range of manifestations presenting local Christmas and New Year traditions. “B&Bs, hotels even, have prepared an artistic programme,” Lacramioara Beilic, director of the Bukovina Tourism Association, stated. Today, carols will start at 1 pm, in Sucevita, according to an announcement from the Suceava County Council. On Christmas Eve, similar carolling performances will be on offer at the households in the regions, in various places – Vatra Moldovitei, Cosna, Poiana Stampei. The folk shows that traditionally precede the New Year will start on Monday, December 27. Starting 11 am, Suceava will host the carollers’ parade, and, at 3 pm, a New Year’s traditions and customs festival will start in Falticeni. On December 28, starting 11 am, the New Year’s masks and traditions parade (Malanca) will take place in the centre of Gura Humorului, and visitors may watch a re-enactment of it on the next day, at the same time, in Sucevita, and on December 30, in Vatra Dornei. Also on December 28, in Vatra Dornei, tourists will be treated to performances involving bears, goats, stags. All these performances are meant to invoke prosperity in the year to come. “The bear is an animal which attacks the herds. These customs are a ritual attempt to tame him, by the use of magic,” Aurel Prepeliuc, custodian at the Bukovina Village Museum, explains, quoted by “Evenimentul Zilei”. Malanca is a traditional play with masked figures – a bear, a crone, an old man, a doctor, a priest, a groom, a bride, etc. –, who walk about the village, making New Year wishes.

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