Local Traditions

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Crişana region occupies a portion of the western territory of the country, comprising the counties of Bihor, Arad, Sălaj, Satu Mare, Hunedoara and two counties in Hungary. Ruled by the voivodes for a while, the region was the target of the Hungarian migratory tribes, being disputed throughout time between the Habsburg and the Ottoman Empires. Although annexed to Romania at the time of the Great Union, Crişana was ceded to Hungary by the Second Vienna Award (1940) and reconquered four years later. Currently, the area is inhabited by Romanians, Magyars, Germans and Ukrainians, groups that have left their mark on the identity and customs of the place. The world of the village still preserves ancestral customs, so the celebrations throughout the year are endowed with magical meanings, becoming genuine manifestations of folk art.

Traditions Romania

Traditions Romania

Winter Traditions. Christmas and New Year’s in Crişana

The winter traditions in Crişana are spectacular rituals designed to bring abundance, prosperity, health and luck. Locals observe them every year, in virtue of the superstitions passed on from generation to generation. The observance and perpetuation of the customs is at the same time a task and a practice that attracts wellbeing.

Traditions Crisana

Ever since Christmas Eve, children and young people go from home to home to spread the news of the Savior's birth. Grouped in suites of carolers, costumed and wearing special objects, they bring good cheers and color to the alleyways of the villages. In Bihor, older lads carol with a drum made of goatskin or sheepskin, stretched on a round frame and embellished with fir tree branches. The caroling repertoire is very generous, containing both religious songs and texts addressed to unmarried girls, widows, and householders who refuse to let the boys in. The children go with Steaua (the Star) and with the Viclim (the Bethlehem), two similar traditions that recreate the magi's itinerary to the Bethlehem manger.

Traditions Crisana

A custom specific for Crişana is caroling with the Goat or "ţurca", as it is called here, a fabulous character that dies and resurrects, thus restoring the natural order of things and symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. The role of the Goat is given to a boy who wears a mask of the agitated and noisy animal. The head, decorated with bells and ribbons, has a mouth made of wood that makes strident sounds. Although not allowed to speak, the Goat is particularly active: it scares the children, it quarrels with the villagers, it comes into the homes of the householders and dances constantly. Its death saddens the entire suite, but the incantations bring it back to life; What follows are the party songs, dancing with girls and giving thanks for the gifts. Then the Goat invites the spectators to its own wedding, organized on the first three days of the new year. In some villages, it is customary for householders to throw wheat grains before the carolers; they are later used for sowing, in the hope that the fields will be rich.

After Christmas, carolers come to announce the New Year and to wish health, vigor and happiness to the people. On New Year's Eve, the lads throw a party called Verjel, to which single girls are invited. The village mayor, the leader of the group, attends a ceremony in which young couples are formed. The couples spend the New Year together, but the following day the so-called relationship ceases. There are, however, cases where the two young people get along so well that they decide to marry in the following period. Another party, dedicated to the entire village this time, is the "bulciuc", where the householders who have welcomed carolers into their homes rejoice together. This is the moment when the bands of boys end their role of announcing the winter holidays.

Traditions Crisana

On the night of December 31st, the head of the family makes the onion calendar which helps him learn how the months of the following year will be. Twelve onion scales are placed in a straight line and filled with the same amount of water. In the morning, the liquid in the scale leaves is supposed to be indicative of the droughty and the rainy months. On the first day of the new year, children go caroling with the Pluguşor (The Little Plough) and Sorcova, heralding the coming of the fertile spring days. The lyrics are in fact genuine incantations accompanied by whip cracks and bell tinkles. In Crişana, the holidays are accompanied by traditions that bring joy and hope, being an occasion to get together with the loved ones and of getting in touch with authentic values.

Easter Traditions in Crişana

Through the meaning it carries, Easter is a holiday that reminds of divine love and of the miracle of returning to life. Both people and nature go through a purifying and revitalizing process, celebrating the Savior's Resurrection in peace and harmony. The Orthodox Christians in Crişana start preparing for Easter ever since the Holly Week. Housewives prepare fasting food that they offer as alms gift for the souls of the deceased and plant flowers on the graves.

Traditions Crisana

On Holy Thursday, they sound the semantron to chase away evil spirits, and in cemeteries they light fires, considered sacred. In the old days, after the service, the young people gathered in the churchyard and threw eggs at one another. On this day, women prepare some festive dishes and decorate the Easter eggs. In Bihor, the decoration of eggs with religious motifs and symbols is done through a wax resist method-an ancient craft, but perfected and taken to the rank of art. In this game of lines, shapes and colors there are biblical ideas, traditions, scenes from the village life, painted in rich and unrepeatable compositions. The egg means life and regeneration, hence the superstition that red and sanctified eggs can defend the households from hail and stone. It is also said that they can be offered as a gift, and if they stay fresh until the Ascension, they're a sign of good luck.

Traditions Crisana

On the night of the Resurrection, the parishioners go to church and take the holy light home. In some villages, the locals gather in the cemetery and mention the deceased. On Sunday morning, believers wash their face with water in which they had put a red egg, a silver coin and nettle leaves; this way they will be healthy, strong and energetic. As soon as the dishes are sanctified, the whole family takes a seat at the table, enjoying the Easter celebration. After this day, the parties and balls begin in Crişana, events that bring together the entire community. Although Easter customs have been forgotten in time, the atmosphere of the holiday is the same and urges people to be good and forgiving.

Wedding Traditions in Crişana

In the rural universe, the wedding is a ceremony full of meaning and allusions, meant to mark the transition of the young people to the stage of adulthood and to present the roles they will fulfill within the family. The event is celebrated with specific shouts and dances, local traditions and moments that usually suggest the life of the future couple, in an ironic manner.

Once, young people met during the rural social evenings or at the round dance in the village, and the occasions when they were not accompanied by family were rare. The boy usually had the initiative and told his parents about the girl he intended to choose and about the marriage plans. The parents then chose a spokesperson, a trusted man, skilled in speaking, and went to the young lady's parents to woo her. If the girl and her family approved of the boy, they set up the dowry the same day, the godparents and the wedding date. Everyone was offered a glass of pálinka, and the future bride and groom drank from the same glass, as a first sign of their connection.

Traditions Crisana

Three weeks before the wedding they make the invitations, and two of the groom's friends go through the village wearing long sticks, embellished with colored handkerchiefs and basil.

On the big day, the wedding suite is formed at the groom's house. Led by the "lazlaus", the flag carrier, the suite heads to the girl's home, where the spokesman once again asks for her hand in marriage from her parents. After the bride appears and the wedding guests start heading for church, the relatives of the young woman close the gates and challenge the groom to a contest of proverbs. Only a witty spirit manages to deal with the overelaborate sayings of the elders. Then the bride's round dance takes place, a ritual through which she says good-bye to her parents, hoping that her in-laws will receive her with open arms.

After the wedding ceremony, the party begins, either at the groom's house or at the restaurant. A plate with wheat is placed on a table, for wheat is a symbol of luck, and the speaker throws it on the wedding guests and then sprinkles them with holy water. During this time, the bride gets advice from her godmother and is attired by her friends; the bridegroom puts a black, flowered kerchief on her head, after which the dancing begins. The boy's relatives have to dance with the bride first, to integrate her into the new family. Then everyone gets caught in round dances, feasts and celebrates the formation of the new family.

Traditions Crisana

Two weeks after the wedding, the newlyweds go to their godparents' house with a big colac and the four ask for one another's forgiveness. They exchange colacs, and the godparents wash their godchildren's hands and wipe them with a towel. Once the forgiveness is completed, a small feast with musicians begins. Wedding is a celebration and a rite of initiation into a new stage of life, intertwining two destinies into one.

Traditions Crisana

In Crişana, the traditions that accompany the holidays and the important community events are defining elements of local identity. They reflect the beliefs and the superstitions of the people, perpetuating an archaic lifestyle, ordered according to the teachings of the ancestors.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]