Local Traditions

Click one of the icons below to discover more information!



Dobrogea is the region situated between the Danube and the Black Sea, including the counties of Constanţa and Tulcea on the territory of Romania and Dobrici and Silistra regions in Bulgaria. Throughout time, its history has been marked by the domination of many civilizations, including the Greeks, the Persians, the Geto-Dacians, the Byzantine Empire, the Vlach-Bulgarian Empire, or the Ottoman Empire. After the war of 1878, Dobrogea and the Danube Delta became territories of independent Romania. Currently, the south-eastern part of the country is inhabited mostly by Romanians, but also by ethnic groups: Aromanians, Turks, Tatars, Lipovan Russians, Greeks, Bulgarians, and Ukrainians. Each community has preserved its traditions characteristic for the great religious holidays and for the important moments in people's lives, while also influencing some of the customs of the place. The cultural identity of Dobrogea has been formed on the basis of these customs and on the spirituality of all the minorities that have lived in this region.

Traditions Romania

Traditions Romania

Winter Traditions. Christmas and New Year’s in Dobrogea

Winter customs in Dobrogea are similar to those observed in other parts of the country. They reflect both man's relationship with nature and his connection to divinity. On December 6th, people here celebrate Saint Nicholas' Day, a holiday much-awaited by children. The latter clean their boots and place them close to the door, hoping that the Saint would come and bring them sweets. It is said that only obedient children are rewarded with gifts, while the naughty ones receive a twig that parents often use when scolding them.

On Christmas Eve, groups of young people start caroling. In some areas of Dobrogea, especially on the Danube limes, the carols are heard even before daybreak and only cease the following morning. In the past, the groups were made of unmarried boys exclusively; girls never went caroling, they only welcomed carolers. At present, one can see three groups of carolers in the villages of Dobrogea: the children's band, the small band of the lads, and the big band of the married men. Each group has a band leader and a well-established hierarchy. At Adamclisi, the custom of caroling is accompanied by the traditional goat (or ţurca, as they call it here) dance. One of the youngsters is costumed as a deer with a stork's beak and performs a short dance with the other carolers. On the first Christmas day, the Goat dance moves in the center of the village, where it offers a real show. The repertoire of the bands of carolers is very rich and includes both the children's funny carols and the lads' carols, addressed either to unmarried young people or to couples, fishermen or shepherds. In exchange of their prosperity and health wishes, the carolers receive colacs, sweet cake, fruit, boiled brandy and money. Unmarried girls also give the boys flower wreaths.

Caroling with masks is a very common practice in Dobrogea. On the evening of Christmas Eve, they go caroling with the Bear and the Oleleu. A member of the band dresses either in a bear costume or wears a mask with horns meant to be frightening. The Oleleu only enters the households of wealthy people, where he is fed and receives money. Tradition says that the boy who impersonates the oleleu is not allowed to enter the church the entire following year.

Traditions Dobrogea

Traditions Dobrogea

On Christmas morning, Christians wear holiday clothes and, old and young, go to church. For example, Lipovan Russians have a traditional costume that they only use when attending religious services. Men wear a collarless shirt (rubashka) tied with a woolen cincture and black, loose pants. The women's outfit is made of a long skirt called iubca, rubashka and a cincture. The young girls set their hair in one braid, while married women wear a kerchief.

After the service, the Dobrogeans celebrate around the festive table with their family and friends. Among Christmas dishes popular in this area we can name the apple stuffed goose, cabbage rolls or sarmale, as they are called in Romania and fish specialties. There is the custom of tying the legs of the table with chains so as to keep evil spirits away from the house.

After Christmas begin the preparations for the New Year, celebrated with Sorcova and the Pluguşor (The Little Plough). The boys start roaming the villages and wish good health, prosperity and a happy new year to the householders. In Tulcea, there is the dance of the horses, a symbol of strength and youth. Very dynamic and original, the dance shows the strong connection established between the horse - able to intuit the will of man - and the rider, who effortlessly leads the animal. On the first day of the new year, children go from house to house and throw grains of wheat or rice, wishing prosperity to the hosts; this custom is called sowing. In those homes where single girls live, the sowers must be young and beautiful guys.

The celebration of the birth of the Lord and the New Year are occasions of joy and meeting with the loved ones. Christians forget about their worries, make peace with one another, offer gifts and celebrate around food-filled tables, hoping they will be healthy and happy.

Traditions Dobrogea

Traditions Dobrogea

Easter Traditions in Dobrogea

For Romanians all over the country, but also for the other ethnic groups, Easter is the greatest Christian holiday. In the period preceding the Resurrection, believers clean their households and renew their clothes, thus preparing to receive their guests.

In Dobrogea, before Lent, they observe customs that aim to purify nature. One of these customs is Olaria or the Hurhumbal, which consists of lighting a fire from vegetal wastes. It is believed that this way nature is cleaned, making way for the new vegetation. The villagers also climb up a hill from where they let go of a wheel wrapped in straws and set on fire, symbolizing the course of the sun on the sky.

On the Shrovetide, children and young people beat the halvah, a custom through which they find out their luck. A piece of halvah is hung from a beam of the house, and those who take part in the ritual need to catch it with their mouths, without the help of their hands. Those who bite it make a wish. On Holy Thursday, women paint eggs and prepare pasca, a traditional Easter cake, and on Friday they attend the sermon. On the night of the Resurrection, believers go to church and take home the holy light.

On the first day of Easter, people sanctify the dishes - the pasca and the red eggs - symbolizing the body and blood of the Savior. Then the whole family sits at the table, enjoying traditional dishes: lamb soup, haggis, sweet cake (cozonac). On the third day of Easter, the tradition of Paparuda is observed in the Lipovan Russian communities. A group made of girls or elderly women is formed in the village, and they are adorned with flowers and green branches; two of these women wear masks. The group goes from house to house, dancing and singing to call the rain. The host splashes them with water, thus imitating the meteorological phenomenon. Another popular custom is the Caloian, dedicated to the fertility of the earth and the crops. On the third Wednesday after Easter, the villagers make a clay doll that they bury it in the field. After a period of 9 to 40 days, the unbury it and break it into pieces that they throw over the crops.

Although some of the Dobrogean customs have been forgotten, those who have won the battle with time are strictly observed. The Easter traditions of this area are very old and focus particularly on man's communion with nature. However, in Dobrogea you will also find the tranquility, the warmth and the peace of mind with which people celebrate Jesus' Resurrection.

Traditions Dobrogea

Wedding Traditions in Dobrogea

Wedding traditions in Dobrogea are quite varied, combining Romanian customs with Turkish or Tatar ones. The wedding begins on a Thursday and lasts until Sunday, but the bride and groom only see each other on Saturday. The period preceding their meeting is dedicated to the preparations.

On Friday, the godmother, the mother of the groom and other relatives come to the bride's house and bring her veil for the fitting. On this occasion there is a small party attended by women alone. On the wedding day, the godmother is the one who puts the bride's veil on, bringing her blush, perfume and jewelry. While she is being primped, the bride cannot be seen by any man. After this moment, she can pin on flower corsages at the guests’ chest, and then dance the bride's round dance.

On the wedding day, the bridegroom heads together with the wedding suite to his future wife's house. The young woman traditionally hides, and he must find her. Then he offers her a gift and slips money into her shoe to attract prosperity. There is also the custom according to which the godmother breaks a colac over the bride's head before going to the church. At the religious ceremony, when the bride and groom kneel, the groom has to sit on his wife's dress, if he wants to have an obedient wife.

The event is attended by the entire community, who thus shows its support for the new couple. By the end of the party, the godmother removes the bride's veil and replaces it with a kerchief. From this moment on, the young woman is a wife. The veil is given to a girl who is going to get married and the groom's flower is offered to her fiancé. There is another bride's round dance, where only married women participate.

In some villages, they preserve the Sunday round dance custom, a small party attended by the bride and groom, the godparents, the in-laws, the parents and some close relatives. Even if the traditions differ, the weddings in Dobrogea are celebrated with folk music and dances, marking the formation of the new family in a festive way.

Wedding Dobrogea

Throughout the Year Traditions in Dobrogea

The Dragobete

Also called the The Dashing or The Birds' Fiancé, the Dragobete was a young god of the Dacians. Depending on the area, he is celebrated between February 24-28th and March 1st-25th, being considered the patron of love. It is said that on Dragobete Day birds mate and begin to nest. Boys and girls have to meet to fall in love the same way. When the weather is beautiful, the young people go out into the forest to pick the first spring flowers. Married women collect the water they use on certain days of the year to preserve their beauty.

Customs Dobrogea

The Cuckoos are celebrated on the first day after Easter Shrovetide. The custom consists of a mask parade. A group of 15 men is divided into two seven-member groups: one of cuckoos and one of cuckoo females - in this case, men crossdressing as women. The fifteenth person is the central character of the parade and is called The Mute. The cuckoos have different masks, long skirts and opanci adorned withsome bells. The props also contain a red-painted sword and a blue wooden ax. The cuckoos go through the village, fight with one another to chase away evil spirits, then they stop from house to house and start a round dance. The ritual announces the coming of spring, purifies the space and chases away diseases.

Drăgaica is the goddess of harvests and love, similar to the Sânziene in Moldova. It is born with the spring equinox and matures on June 24th, when the flowers by the same name bloom. Drăgaica Fair is considered the best day to pick healing plants. Girls pick the sânziene flowers (lady's bedstraws) from which they make wreaths that they then put on the gates or at the windows to attract good luck and prosperity. Those who want to marry sleep with a bouquet of flowers under the pillow to dream of their predestined one. Married women wear them in their hair or at their bosom, to be more appealing. In some villages it is customary for the girls to choose the most beautiful and the most obedient one among them and to walk alongside her through the village. The Drăgaica suite stops at the crossroads, where the women sing and start round dances.

The legends say that the Sânziene are good fairies that heal the sick, help animal and bird breeding and protect the harvests from hail. But if they are not properly celebrated, the Sânziene turn into evil fairies, known as the Iele. They bring storms, sicken people and leave plants without their healing properties.


The villages in Dobrogea are charming in their simplicity. The inhabitants of the Delta, most of them fishermen, still know delightful stories and legends from the elders. The latter have passed on ancient traditions to the new generations. Visit Dobrogea and you will be won over by the rural universe and by these traditional customs.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]