Over 85 percent of the population is Romanian Orthodox. Very small
minorities of Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Jews make up the
remainder. The Romanian calendar burgeons with fast days and feast days,
lucky days and unlucky days, rites for spring and rites for winter, sheep
milking festivals, harvest and seeding festivals, wine festivals and
festivals for the invocation of rain. All have traditional songs and
dances and often costumes and much wine and good food.
Funeral customs exemplify many ancient pagan rites, beliefs, and symbols:
dirges and funeral songs are played, special dawn ceremonies are held and
many don special masks while keeping the vigil with the corpse. In the
church service, the priest blesses a special plate of cooked grain, nuts
and sugar in memory of the dead.
Weddings are gay, colorful, and bursting with exuberant song and dance.
One of the oldest country wedding traditions is the fertility rite of "the
song of the hen." Feasting and good times may continue more than one day.
In Wallachia, Gypsy children parade in green-leaved costumes, knocking at
each house, singing, dancing and being splashed with water by the
villagers. This paparude is intended to invoke rain and is usually
performed in the spring or during a drought. More water-throwing
accompanies June 24, St. John's Day, when little girls dress in costumes
and hats decorated with ears of corn, singing, dancing, and uttering
occasional shrieks destined to reach the ears of some unnamed corn god –
another ancient tradition.
Christmas is celebrated more quietly with caroling and good food. But the
stress on agricultural themes can be seen again in many villages. New
Year's is celebrated by carrying a decorated plough from house to house
accompanied with songs to ensure the next year's good crops.