Traditions and Customs




Christmas, the only word in Romanian language that signifies the birth of Christ, made some people in villages believe that if a man came first in their house on this day, it would be a sign of wealth and health for the next year. So to attract the good, the villagers are preparing a lot of traditional dishes and are waiting for guests all night long.

For more than 100 years, in the villages of Bihor county, the custom of slaughtering the pig has been carried out. From meat women prepare sausages and stuffed cabbage (sarma). Most of the lard is smoked and the rest is put in brine. In some areas, the pig is sacrificed on Ignat day, but in most of the county, the pig is sacrificed during the week before Christmas.

Corinda (Singing carols)

Carols are usually sung along the way to the house to be „corindata„ , with drums and specific „strigaturi„ a kind of short poems that are shouted by someone during special events . Upon entering the courtyard, the marching song, the drums and shouts are replaced by carols in the house ("Arise hosts, do not sleep / It is tome to wake up!"). An additional two or three carols are sung, a dance with the women of the house is performed, then the treat is required.

After the Second World War, instead of cozonaci ( a kind of Panetone), wine and brandy or in parallel with those, money treat was introduced. If once, on the Christmas Eve the caroling was organize at one of the hosts, which was richest, today this house turned into Caminul Cultural ( a gathering center destined to celebrate important events in the community´s life). Christmas Corinda starts from the remotest hamlets, covering, from house to house, over two days (Christmas Eve, Christmas morning and evening), a well-defined area.

Viclaimul or Vifleemul (Bethlehem)

Viclaimul Corinda is in fact a small theatrical play, with a religious character. The group of young people performing this Corinda was composed of "the speaker" the three Kings from the East, baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, musicians , Angel Gabriel, sheperds, " the cashier" etc. The three Kings were dressed in shiny clothes, the Angel in white costume, and the others wore traditional costumes. "The Stable" in miniature represented the scene of the Nativity and was carried throughout the village by the group of colindatori. As for the scenes and content, Viclaimul is very much like Steaua (The Star).

Turca or Capra

This Christmas tradition was performed by a group of unmarried merry young men , and a "birau" or "a speaker" to head the procession. Turca ( the goat) showed itself as a living masks adorned with a wooden head, covered with a sheepskin or of another animal, beef or mutton horned, decorated with hanging ribbons and bells. " The lower jaw" was mobile ("clattering after the drums"). Turca´s body was covered with a red cloth or a „bitusa„ made of all kinds of patches, long and wide, with colorful strips of crepe paper.

Corindatul with "Dobele" (Caroling with Drums)

In Bihor county, this custom is usually practiced in the villages where Turca custom does not exist. As in Turca, the group of young people consisted of 10-15 men. They had drums made out from goat or sheep skin stretched over a frame sieve or screen, adorned with ivy, mistletoe and pine branches. This custom still persists in the south of the county, with a strong tradition in the villages of Serghis, Lupoaia, Les, Lazareni and around Beius. Dressed for celebration - with șube (the sheperd´s coat), black sheep hats adorned with fir branches - and each having a drum decorated with fir branches, people begin to sing first in the house of the priest, then entering from house to house, accompanied by musicians.

The group crosses the streets of the village in a great uproar spectacularly yelling and chanting „strigaturi” . The noise emerged in the streets of the villages is meant to announce the hosts upon their arrival, but it presumably played a magic role in the past. The Corinde interpreted by the drum singers were generally with religious texts that announced the birth of the Savior, but not necessarily; they had in their repertoire secular carols as well, for unmarried girls and inconsolable widows, and for those who refused the drummers they had ironic and acid texts in their carols.

Steaua (The Star)

It is a caroling tradition that is meant to evokes the moment when, at the birth of Jesus, on the sky the guiding star of the Kings appeared, with the main theme of the Kings looking for the Newborn.

Stelarii consists in groups of 6-7 children – the speaker, Herod, the Angel, Voltezar, Melchior, Gaspar, and sometimes a "shepherd" or a "dwarf". They are dressed in white shirts, made out of hemp or flax, having on their shoulders and waists tricolor ribbons. On the head they wore comanac ( a kind of crown), decorated with crepe paper of different colors.

Dialogues are played between the Kings from the East and the Angel, and also with Herod. Special songs are performed during the play: "Three Wise Men from the East", "Star Rises Above", "Three Sheperds", " Sunrise," "Adam's Song", "Bethlehem Bethlehem ", " Our Christmas Night "," We sing Corinda "," Joseph and Mary "," Up There, There Above "etc.

Finally, the host is praised and they receive treats or money, which is gathered by the band leader, "the speaker". Recently, after 1950, in the Star "repertoire" entered some other carols, and "alduiri" , ironical humoristic orations.


It is usually the most important New Year tradition. It is organized by young men who choose their leader of the group. This chooses, in turn, the place for the ceremony and invites to the verjel, the unmarried girls from the village. As props are used ”verjelele” (the sticks from the weaver), ”postava”( a kneading trough), two "taljere" (plates) and a "lipideu" ( hemp sheet).

Verjelului actors bring in the New Year's Eve a ring, each ring having a distinct sign; the girls take care of food and drink and the boys look for musicians. The custom includes a brief common party, a more ceremonial part where the pairs are chosen, and then the pairs can start the big party.

Plugul and Plugusorul (The Plough and the Small Plough)

Plugul is performed by young men and Plugusorul by children. The text of the wishing poem is similar, this fact highlighting the existance of a versified „handbook„ of agricultural practices, an evidence that once The New Year was celebrated on the 1st of March.

The group of big lads and freshly married, carry with them from house to house, a plow pulled by to two oxen, plowing symbolically in each courtyard one furrow. Among the pieces of props, we also mention a whip and bells from animals. They produce high intensity noise at different times of the utterance of the text. The groups of children bear with them only whips and bells, sometimes a tiny wooden plow, adorned with crepe paper, bells and "sterguri" (traditional towels).

The Calendar of Onion

On the evening of 31 December, a series of customs are practiced, designed to interpret the agricultural potential of the year that is to begin, the most common being " the onion calendar". Take 12 sheets of two halves of an onion and put the same amount of salt in each. The next morning, the oldest man in the family predicts, following the amount of water collected in each sheet, which of the months of the next year will be the rainiest and the driest. Also in this night, for finding their own destiny, people practice some customs similar to those of the night of St. Andrew's Day (November the 30th ). In any case, from dusk till dawn, light and should not be turned off in any home and no one is allowed to sleep.


Another custom, a newest one, is Sorcova, which incorporates elements well known in all Romanian space. In the morning of the 1st of January, groups of children go with Sorcova, made out of paper flowers; uttering a short easy text, children use sorcova when gently hitting the shoulder of whom they wish. Formerly, sorcova was a bundle of green twigs, this being the real meaning of the wishing gesture (youth, vigor, abundance).

Christmas carols

In Orthodox tradition, carols are considered a way to proclaim the Nativity. The custom of caroling seems to be originally a pagan one, these having been sung in old times just at the turn of the year. Singers were treated with apples and then, colaci, nuts or pretzels.

Carols present the birth of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary´s road to the stable where she gave birth. It is said that by receiving the carol singers, Christians receive the news of Jesus' birth.

The Fir tree, symbol of life

The tradition of the Christmas tree comes from Alsace and was placed first in city centers, and then it entered the homes, decorated with apples, cookies, candles and later with various decorative objects. The tradition of the tree adornment is a moment of joy, that "thing" without which the celebration of the Nativity can not be complete.

The Star you put on top of the tree is the symbol of the star that was shown in Bethlehem announcing the birth of Jesus Christ and in the same time the one that has guided the three wise men to the poor stable where he was born. The same star is evoked by the star of Romanian children who go caroling: a great wooden star, adorned with colorful decorative paper, with fir branches and mistletoe, on which is usually stickled an icon of Virgin Mary and Her Child . Not only the star is a symbol, but the whole fir tree. The triangular shape of the tree, upside down, like an arrow towards God, reminds us that He is up there, the green symbolizes eternal life, the needle-like leaves that grow upwards symbolize the praying with clasped hands, the lights and candles are the lights of heaven , the presents under the tree – love, the red color (first color of Christmas) - Jesus' sacrifice for us, and the bells ring for the lost sheep that want to return to their sheperd.

Santa, symbol of generosity

Santa Claus is a symbol of celebration, cheerfulness and generosity. It seems that the tradition began with St. Nicholas, who was born in the fourth century. He is best known for his love of children and his huge bag full of gifts. Santa puts presents under the fir tree each year and then he climbs up in the sky in a reindeer sleigh . Santa exists in our souls, in our childhood memories and he will always be there, because we need magic, dream and fantasy. Children must not forget that Santa exists!

The presents, symbol of peace

Christmas gifts are as widespread and popular as they are charming. Together, they denote peace, happiness and generosity of spirit that has come to be associated with this day that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

Christmas is religiously symbolic, but it's also the time of gifts when our soul is in the spirit of peace and goodwill. These symbols are prepared in advance and put in the fir tree with great care and love.