Martisor

On the 1st of March, to mark the arrival of spring, Romanian women receive, either from men, or from their girlfriends, a small jewel-like ornament tied with a red and white string with hanging tassels. Worn pinned to clothes, on the left, in front of one’s heart, it is usually handmade, but can also be made of out of gold or silver. Central to the age-old custom, is the combination of red and white in the same string, which represents the duality of life and death. Traditionally at the end of march the martisor get get tied to a tree’s branches, but these days, especially in urban areas, they are simply kept in the jewelry box until next spring.

Dragobete

Seen as the Romanian version of Valentine’s Day, Dragobete is celebrated on February 24th. Dragobete, personified as a young handsome man, is the protector of lovers in Romanian folk culture. Around that day, which represents the end of winter, it is believed that birds find their mate and start building nests together. Traditionally, young men and women would pick flowers together in the woods, and upon returning, women would allow the man they fancied to steal a kiss. That would mark the start of their relationship, and bygone times, that of their engagement.

Today, a common custom says that women should make sure that, by the day’s end, they’ve touched a man, should they want to be happy in love that year. Any man, of any age, even a stranger on the bus (although not recommended), will do.

Easter in Romania

Easter is an important holiday on the Romanian calendar. Romanians, the majority of whom adhere to Orthodox Christianity, place significance on this holiday more than any others, including Christmas.

This day is marked by family gatherings, special foods and the decoration of Easter eggs in traditional Romanian style. The days leading up to Easter are also important and are marked by traditions similar to those throughout the Christian world. 

You can visit Easter markets for a sense of some of these generations-old customs and buy crafts made with techniques developed over hundreds of years.

Christmas Traditions

Romanians celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Pagan themes of life and death are intertwined with Christian Christmas traditions.

While city dwellers no longer fatten a Christmas pig, most Romanians still keep up the tradition of eating pork for Christmas. Other dishes will accompany the main pork dish or be made from pork, and Romanian plum brandy may be served. For dessert, Romanians enjoy a traditional fluffy cake called cozonac. 

Romania also has strong Christmas caroling customs that reference Romanian folklore. The act of going through the village, or from house to house, singing carols dates to pre-Christian times. Today, you'll see mostly children caroling. 

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