Coming as I do from a Common law background many laws in England are founded on practice precedent and tradition. As a Romanian law firm we are asked by foreign clients about precedent and tradition in Romania, which does not apply to Romanian law but I thought this week’s blog could be different.  So I decided to give some information regarding Romanian traditions, not Romanian law, but Romanian traditions concerning the Christmas period.

The following is some of the more interesting traditions, which if you live in Romania you may, or may not, be familiar with.

Ignatul – Taiatul Porcului (St Ignatius, The Ritual of The Slaughtering of the Pig) – December 20th .This is major event in rural Romania and is a special day when all the relatives who live in cities come home to visit their elders who still live in the village and the whole family gathers to kill the pig. (Pork is the traditional meat for Romanian Christmas feasts). A meal is usually served right after the pig is slaughtered for all those who are not fasting (post) and they drink Tuica or Rachiu, traditional Romanian spirits, which is usually drunk hot mixed with lots of pepper and sugar. This special meal is called Pomana Porcului (Pig’s Alms) and its highlight is the Soric – pork skin with the fat still on, which is served either raw or grilled.

Steaua (Christmas Carols). Steaua is a special Christmas Carol. A star is made of coloured paper and often decorated with tinsel, silver foil and sometimes bells and put on a pole. In the middle of the star is a picture of the baby Jesus or a nativity scene. Carol singers (mostly children) take the star with them when they go carol singing from Christmas Day to Epiphany. The carolers expect fruits, nuts, traditional knot-baked breads (Colaci) and money in return for their singing no matter how good or bad it is.

The Christmas tree. Surprisingly, this is rather new in Romania and is mostly seen in cities. In rural Romania the habit of decorating fir trees is a major tradition associated with funerals. The Coffin is often placed on a bed of fir branches decorated with tinsel.

Capra si Ursul – The Goat Dance and The Bear Dance. The cities and villages of Romania are very noisy during the days after Christmas and before New Year’s Eve. There are crowds of masked people everywhere, who roam the streets and sing and dance and make lots of noise. These are the Romanian Masked Dances, of which the Goat Dance and the Bear dance are the most famous.

The traditional goat dance is a complex folk play with many characters (masks).The woodenhead of the Goat is covered with fur (of kid or rabbit). The lower jaw is mobile in order to “clatter”. Its cornels may come from a real animal (the goat, ram or deer) or may be made of wood. Between the cornels there are fantastic decorative compositions from the girls’ beadwork or their handkerchiefs, multi-coloured tassels or ribbons, mirrors, tinsel, ivy, basil, artificial or natural flowers.

Another dance with masks performed during the winter holidays is the goat dance, besides the classical masks, the goat, the shepherd, the gipsy, the woodman, masks of devils and “greybeards” are introduced, where yells, lusty cheers, funny gestures, intensify the cheerful, humorous aspect.

The bear dance can be seen on New Year’s Eve especially in Moldavia. Its origins are older than 2000 years and it is very similar to the Goat dance. It is said that it drives away the evil spirits and in this way the New Year that comes will be cleaned up. A young man plays the bear role. He carries a bear skin on his head and shoulders. The skin is decorated with red tassels, mirrors, gold threads and brass nails. He is tied in chains and driven by a bear leader.

Other noteworthy fun fact for Christmas: always clean the house thoroughly for Christmas but NEVER take the garbage out on Christmas Eve, it is bad luck.

So these are some of the Romanian traditions.

To finish, I wish you all a happy Christmas and look forward to writing for you in the New Year.