ROMANIAN SPECIAL OCCASIONS
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.