Traditions and Customs

A plurality of Romanian, Hungarian and Saxon beliefs and legends, Transylvania offers to the travellers some of the most beautiful and animated traditions and customs of the year. Practiced with the purpose of bringing luck, health and rich crops to the entire community, these traditions are enshrined since the ancestors’ times and they are unique in Romania and Europe.

Casting out evil spirits, revival of nature and life, spiritual survival and cleansing are some of the most important meanings of these traditions.

Here are some of the most beautiful traditions and customs of Transylvania:

Steaua (The Star) - The Star is a winter custom, passed on from generation to generation, which is carried out every year on December 25th, at Christmas. The carollers walk through the village with the Star announcing the birth of baby Jesus. Usually, the carol singers go in groups of four, with the angel and the three Magi. For their carolling, the children receive nuts, apples or cakes.

Chematul fetelor la juni (Calling the girls at the young men) – It is a yearly custom, which takes place at Christmas, on 25th December. In this part of the country, traditions and customs are enshrined, from father to son. During this village holiday, the young men are dressed in traditional costumes. They go to the houses with marriageable girls and call them to the party. Thereafter the girls’ parents serve them with wine and pies. The party takes place in the evening at the young men host’s place.

Capra (The Goat) – The Goat is another winter custom which is carried out during Christmas holiday. The custom of this carol has a special significance: the goat brings abundance and health for the next year. The carol singers dress up and start dancing the goat throughout the village, wishing wealth, labour force and health for the villagers.

Butea Junilor (Young Men’s Hogshead) – This custom is specific to the winter holydays, but the preparations begin from October. It is the moment when the “young men’s hogshead” union is formed and the host for the holidays is established. Thereafter, a week before Christmas, the lads of the village bring to the host the dishes for the Christmas feast. On Christmas day, the lads, dressed in festive clothes, start carolling through the village. After carolling, the boys head to the host house, where they feast.

Meteleaua (Straw Doll) – This is a pagan custom, celebrated every year at the winter solstice. On this occasion, the villagers lit bonfires in order to cast away the evil. Later on, the bonfires were replaced with a “meteleu” (straw dolls). The “meteleu” bonfire symbolizes nature and life revival. These bonfires are now associated with Christmas, every village in Transylvania burning the “meteleu” in the centre of the town. This tradition takes place on December 28th and the groups of boys wear themed costumes.

Borita (The Mask) – It is a Christmas custom specific to the Csango Hungarians of Transylvania. Borita is a mask worn by a boy in the group of carollers, who dance and sing songs meant to cast away the evil spirits. The dance is performed only by boys and it also means the life cycles.

Ravasitul oilor (Sheep Scattering) - This holiday symbolizes the end of pastoral year. This tradition is celebrated every year in Bran, on the Queen’s Heart Plateau. On this occasion, the shepherds come down with the sheep from the mountains and return them to the owners, along with the cheese. The Sheep Scattering then takes the form of a rural celebration, where they listen to music, dance and eat traditional Romanian dishes.

Focul lui Sumedru (Sumedru Bonfire) – This festival is held annually on October 26th, St. Demetrius day. Both adults and children dress up in folk costumes and dance around a fire. Saint Demetrius is the patron saint of shepherds and rich crops, and that is why the hot coals in the fire are taken by villagers and used to fertilize the fields and the gardens.

Farsangul (The Carnival) - It is a spectacular custom specific to the Saxon community; it takes place before the Lent and it is the last party before Easter. It signifies the beginning of a better year, full of fruit, wealth and health. The holiday procession is made up of lads dressed up in colourful clothes, going to the yards of all villagers to ward off evil spirits of the last year and to bring a fresh new lucky year.

Impuscatul cocosului (Cock Shooting) – It is a tradition over 400 years old, specific to the Hungarian community of Transylvania. This custom takes place every year on the first day of Easter, and the participants are children and teenagers. The legend says that during the Tartar invasion, the inhabitants were sheltered in the Black Castle, but they were discovered because of a rooster singing. Those who survived the massacre, decided to shoot the cock. Therefore, this custom means survival.

Santilia (Shepherds’ Holiday from Sacele) - This celebration takes place in the first week after St. Elijah and has an outdoors rural character, celebrating the fire and the sun. On this day, the boys offer to the girls they are about to marry distaffs and cheese as presents. The day is long awaited by shepherds, who had to climb up the hill with the sheep and could not descend throughout the summer. During “Santilia” celebration, the whole village goes up to the sheepfold.

Roata in flacari (The Burning Wheel) - This custom occurs annually on Shrove Tuesday Lent. It takes place at night, when burning wheels are rolled down the hill, thrown by the boys in the village. The wheels are destined to the young girls, not married yet. This custom announces the arrival of spring and the end of marriages period.