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December 7, 2021

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.

To have a caroling we need a band (at least 2-3 people), which goes from house to house and sing Christmas carols.  All people participate. Boys and men form bands who start carols trails. Each band has a head and its own meeting place. Girls, women and old men wait for them to come and sing. Each person has his/her own role in the village scenery.
The gift given to the carollers is the knot-shaped bread, being itself a sign of wealth and abundance. They can also receive apples and nuts and traditional Christmas food.

Nowadays, all the people wander the cities gathered in groups of Christmas “singers” calling on their relatives and friends. Even the women. This is, because of the lack of real traditions, we need to feel the Romanian Christmas spirit somehow.

The Romanian Christmas customs are all full of joy and optimism, from which the caroling represents the light that springs from the Romanian people souls, casting a lyrical, fairy-tale light on the entire winter scenery.

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