Local Traditions

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The region of Moldavia is situated in the eastern part of Romania and includes the territories of eight counties: Galaţi, Iaşi, Vaslui, partially Bacău, Botoşani, Neamţ, Suceava, Vrancea. Throughout time, this land was marked by the invasions of migratory peoples, then went under the rule of the Kingdom of Hungary, the Kingdom of Poland and that of the Ottoman Empire. In 1859, Moldavia and Wallachia were united in a single state, later named Romania. Currently, the eastern part of the country has a low ethnic diversity, with few Hungarians (ceangăi), Lippovans (Russians) and Armenians living here. For this reason, the customs and traditions in Moldavia are some of the most authentic, less influenced by the culture of other peoples. In the rural universe they preserve the values, the traditions and crafts inherited from ancestors, hence you will discover a fascinating world, full of significance and meaning, on the alleyways of the villages. The picturesque of the landscapes, the folk art, the spectacle of the holidays and the lifestyle of the Moldavians will undoubtedly win you over, often giving you the impression that time has stood still.

Traditions Romania

Traditions Romania

Winter Traditions. Christmas and New Year in Moldavia

Christmas is the most expected holiday of the year; children are eager to receive gifts and adults enjoy the specific traditions and family gatherings. Very many customs are observed during this period, for the Moldavians have not forgotten the practices of the elders and the old superstitions. Christmas holidays start on the 6th of December, when they celebrate St. Nicholas. The night before, the little ones shine their shoes and place them near the stove, at the window or near the door, hoping that Father Nicholas will reward them for their good deeds. The old man brings gifts to good children, while the naughty are left only with a twig. Thereafter, Christmas preparations begin: women do the cleaning, the household is supplied with food for cooking traditional meals, men look for the most beautiful fir tree and young people prepare masks and learn carols.

Traditions Moldavia

Traditions Moldavia

One of the traditions preceding Christmas is the slaughtering of the pig, which takes place on St. Ignatius (December 20th). It is said that after this day, the animal stops getting fat, so farmers don’t lose much time. Formerly, the pig's blood was dried, ground and used throughout the year to keep children safe and healthy. Moldavians who aren't fasting get to eat the delicious steak served with polenta and sauerkraut at the pork feast.

On Christmas Eve, bands of carolers roam about the village to proclaim the birth of Jesus. Groups of children and young people go from house to house and wish the hosts health, happiness and prosperity, being rewarded with nuts, apples and colacs, that is -braided sweet breads. Older boys dress up and walk with the Goat ("Capra"), a custom deeply rooted in village life. According to Romanian tradition, the goat is an animal considered evil; it is said that when God created the sheep, the devil wanted to imitate God and made a goat. However, the goat dance was included in the ceremony of the winter holidays, being associated with fertility and rich harvests. The man who plays this role dresses in a very colorful costume, made of fabrics sewn by local craftsmen and adorned with ribbons, bells, beads and tassels. Followed by a large suite of characters, the goat makes a real show: it jumps, jerks, rotates and bends in a merry dance reminiscent of pagan practices. The game illustrates the death and the rebirth of the animal, a symbol of nature's cycles.

Traditions Moldavia

On Christmas Eve, the housewives in Moldavia bake colacs shaped like the number 8, which they then hang near the icons. Also called "crăciunei", they are taken off the walls only on March 21st, at the vernal equinox, when villagers go ploughing. After the first furrow has been ploughed, the man of the house breaks the colac in three: he puts the first piece under the furrow, the second he gives to his beast of burden, and the last he eats. It is customary that on this day women should prepare 12 courses in honor of the 12 apostles who spread Christianity.These dishes are offered to guests on the first day of Christmas, thus marking the end of the fasting.

On Christmas Eve they also eat pie with hemp seeds, pumpkin and dried prunes and unmarried girls put jugs of water on the porch of their house to find their predestined one; if in the morning the young women find several empty jugs they say there's a high chance for them to get married the following year. On the first day of Christmas, the Moldavians attend the service and then gather around the table to celebrate. Among the traditional dishes they feast with we can name the liver-based sausages with minced pork organs called caltaboşi, sausages, cabbage rolls, aspic and sweet leavened bread (cozonac). The table remains untouched even overnight in order for the family to have a plentiful year.

Before the New Year, boys go caroling with The Little Plough ("Plugusorul"), a custom meant to banish winter and bring fertility to the earth. Accompanied by shouts and whip snaps, the ritual optimistically announces a rich and fruitful year. On January 1, children walk with Sorcova, wishing the hosts health and efficiency in their work. Winter traditions in Moldavia have origins that are lost in the mists of time, but always remain current and delightful.

Traditions Moldavia

Easter Traditions in Moldavia

For all Romanians, Easter is the most important Christian holiday which symbolizes the return to life. As a matter of fact, nature is reborn in this period, so spring is also celebrated. To properly celebrate Easter, believers observe the Lent through prayer and abstaining from foods of animal origin. In The Passion Week, after Palm Sunday, the housewives clean the houses and start to prepare traditional dishes. After sacrificing the lamb, women cook the haggis and dye the eggs red. Once, on Good Friday they didn't light the fire or do any farm work as they said that those who observed the custom would be lucky all throughout the year.

On Saturday evening, the Moldavians go to church and take home the holy light. The Easter candle is kept to be lit in case of danger. Unmarried girls wash the bell tower with clean water to please the boys in the village. It is said that boys should give a red egg to the young girls whom they are in love with.

On the first day of Easter, early in the morning, the whole family dresses in festive clothes and takes the food to be consecrated. Then relatives and friends gather around the table and tap eggs; the first egg must be eaten by all fellow guests in order for them to stay together for better and for worse. There is the superstition that those whose egg does not break will be healthy all year. The crumbs from the Easter table are buried in the garden; a plant commonly called “măruncă” in Romanian, a tansy in fact, will grow in that place, and whoever will drink tea prepared from it will be blessed with many children. The Easter customs in Moldavia especially reflect the human being's relationship with the divinity, at the same time recalling the communion with nature.

Traditions Moldavia

Traditions Moldavia

Wedding Traditions in Moldavia

The Moldavian wedding is a celebration attended by the entire village and accompanied by customs that mark the passing of the young newlyweds to adulthood. As in other areas of the country, preparations begin with the party invitations,a task performed by the village magistrates. They go from door to door and invite the villagers to the party. On the Wednesday before the wedding, they strain the flour for the sweet leavened bread (cozonaci) and bread, and on Thursday they prepare the coarsely ground maize or millet for the cabbage rolls.

On the wedding day, the groomsmen and the wedding godparents, accompanied by fiddlers, go and fetch the bridegroom from his parents' house and they all head for the bride's place. Here, the godmother puts the bride's veil on the bride's face and perfumes her, while the unmarried boys shave and comb the groom. Formerly, they used to choose several pairs of godparents, according to wealth and social status, but this custom was lost with time. After the young people apologize from their parents for their mistakes and promise to be good spouses, the entire suite starts for the church.The bride and groom must carry several objects necessary for the ceremony, including two colacs, a bottle of wine, a towel, crosses and an icon. Traditionally, the groom has to step on the bride's foot if he wants an obedient wife; otherwise, the woman will lead the household. On leaving the church, the wedding guests throw rice and wheat,symbols of wealth at the couple, and the bride must overturn a bucket full of water.

Wedding Moldavia

At the restaurant, the newlyweds are served with white cherry comfiture, to have a sweet life together. Traditional Moldavian foods are ever-present at the wedding, along with folk dances and games that create a festive atmosphere. In the morning, the bride takes off her veil, which she gives to a girl waiting to marry, and replaces it with a kerchief, a sign that she has become a married woman. The next day, when the newlyweds go home, the groom carries his wife across the threshold to keep the evil spirits away from her. The bride is not allowed to enter the parents' home until they call her; otherwise she will have bad luck in her marriage. A week after the wedding, the newlyweds take gifts to the godparents, as a sign of respect and gratitude.

Wedding Moldavia

Throughout the Year Traditions in Moldavia

Saint Basil is celebrated on January 1st. On this day, unmarried girls go into the stables and touch the animals with their foot, saying "this year", "next year" and "the second year". If the animal moves at the first shout, the girl will marry in a few months; otherwise, she will have to wait for a year or two.

Epiphany or the Jordan is the celebration of Jesus' baptism (January 6th). In Moldavia, women prepare 12 kinds of fasting courses to be sprinkled with consecrated water by the priest. These include boiled wheat sweetened with honey, cabbage pies, boiled plums, boiled grains, fried fish, fish borscht and colacs. After the priest leaves, all family members sit at the table.

Customs Moldavia

March ("Mărţişor"). On March 1st, the Moldavians tie small traditional trinkets (red and white strings with hanging tassels) to the animals' throats to protect them from diseases, to the branches of trees in order for them to be fruitful, to the icons, to be lucky. Mothers tie a white-red string to the hand of children in order for them to be healthy and cheerful. In Moldavia, the boys receive mărţişor trinkets, and the girls throw them in a running water for the lads that they are in love with not to leave them. It is said that young women who wash their face with snow on this day will be beautiful all their life.

Customs Moldavia

Saint Andrew was one of Jesus' twelve apostles and is considered "Romania's Patron Saint", being celebrated on November 30th. Legends say that on the night of St. Andrew's evil spirits haunt the earth, blowing people's minds and stealing the fruit of the orchards. In Moldavia, villagers put garlic on the windows, turn the pots upside down and remove the ash from the stove so that the undead wouldn't find shelter at the heat. Young girls put basil under their pillow to dream of their predestined one, while old women spend the night guarding the braids of garlic later given to the lads.


Moldavia remains charming with its picturesque landscapes, its simple rural life and the multitude of traditions and customs that have been preserved for generations. The spectacle of the great holidays, the explosion of color and joy, the folk dances and songs make this region of the country a perfect destination for holidays in any season.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]