Romania is a country full of beautiful traditions, interesting and sought-after customs, superstitions that make you wonder where they came from and legends taken to the extreme. We often wonder about their roots and whether or not they have a kernel of truth. Whether they are real or simply invented, the Romanian traditions give charm to our country and enrich it culturally.
So here are some customs, traditions, superstitions and legends from the Transylvanian land.
Icons painted on glass
Surprisingly or not, glass painting, especially of icons, is a popular art found exclusively in Transylvania. This art appears around the 18th century at the famous Nicula monastery, where it is also the oldest workshop of this occupation.
Mărţişorul (March Trinket)
It’s a legend with an antiquity of more than 8000 years arrived on the territory of Romania with Daco-Thracian influences that symbolize the coming of spring. This holiday has several fantastic interpretations such as the warrior’s struggle for the setting of the sun or the struggle of spring with winter and the relationship between two brothers.
The tradition is embellished by offering small symbolic gifts attached with a braided thread made of white and red colors.
Reconciliation Chamber in Biertan
This little room, intended for divorced couples, is located in the fortified church of Biertan. The divorce chamber (or reconciliation chamber) is located in the church tower and played an important role in traditional society.
In this room was a single bed, a single cutlery and a single cup meant to bring the locked-up couples here.
It is also said that all 300 couples locked up here came to terms and eventually stayed together.
The night of Sânziene (gentle fairies)
It is an old, popular tradition with a magical story.
It is said that between June 21 and 23 the heavens open and our world communicates with the afterworld. That is when we can get in touch with lost loved ones. Also, on the Night of Sânziene we can understand the speech of the animals from which we can learn hidden secrets.
These days, the solstice bath is also practiced in honor of John the Baptist, which cleanses you of your troubles and fulfills your wishes for the next year.
Whatever legend you choose to believe in, Sânziene Night is a legend dressed in charm.
Vampires and garlic
Legend states that vampires are creatures that appear at night, especially on the date of St. Andrew’s Day.
The legend also says about vampires that they would inhibit people’s wills in order to steal their appearance or beauty, power and even mothers’ milk.
The weak points of vampires would be sunlight, crosses made of wild rose thorns, poppy seeds and garlic.
People used to grease the windows, chimneys, stoves, keyholes and door frames to keep them away, according to legend.
The Lola tradition refers to a custom from the 17th century that involved handing the coffins to those who were to rule over their lands. These crates were guarded by masked people named Lole or Urzeln at the time.
This custom was not only in Transylvania but also in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
Nowadays, this tradition is celebrated with a run through the streets of the city by people with masks, to keep evil spirits away.
This custom symbolizes the end of winter and the entry into Lent. The name Fărșang is derived from the German word “vastschang” which means “the last drink” and refers to the last party before Easter.
This tradition is celebrated by wearing masks with the faces of elders, but among them there are also funny and hideous masks that are meant for the expulsion of evil spirits.
The tradition of the Dragobete holiday presupposed that boys and girls to be dressed in festive attire.
They have to meet in front of the church and then set off through the woods or meadows for the first flowers of spring.
On the hills of the villages, young people sat and talked around fires.
At noon, the girls ran home, being followed by the boy who liked her. If he caught up with her and she would like him, they had to kiss in front of everyone. Hence the Romanian expression “Dragobetele kisses girls!”
The symbol of that kiss was that the two were to be engaged for a year or more.
The Sângeorz Holiday and the Living Fire
Sângeorz is rather a fertility ritual using water and green masks during the ceremony and is celebrated by Saint George.
The custom involves either the boys sprinkling the girls with water, or a boy masked in branches and green leaves being sprayed with water.
Also, on Saint George’s Day, the Living Fire is celebrated in other areas of Transylvania.
This custom required young boys to light a fire either in the door frame of the household or in their sheepfolds.
The young people had to use only wood and tinder fungus until the first sparks appeared, and when the smoke showed up, they directed it to their cows to protect them from the undead or jumped over it to protect them from evils and troubles.
In the Transylvanian area we also find a custom that, as in other areas of the world, is supposed to bring rain. This habit is called Papaluga.
Papaluga is the name given to girls dressed in leaves dancing to bring the rain.
The name of Papaluga is more on the territory of Transylvania but refers to Paparudă – the rain goddess.
Paparuda is identified with the Indian goddess Rudra.
Deochi is one of the most well-known superstition curses by which a person can harm another more vulnerable person, especially young children or women who have just become mothers, with a single glance of admiration or envy.
The cursed person has certain unpleasant symptoms for no reason, such as headache, sudden lack of energy or dizziness. We can get rid of this curse by enchantment which consists in successive prayers.
To prevent the curse, we must be dressed with red wear or we must have a red object in our possession.
The Baptism of Jesus
The Baptism of Jesus (Boboteaza in Romanian) is a secular and religious holiday.
At the base, this holiday is based on the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, that is why the waters and cultures are sanctified during this holiday.
In Transylvania, there are other traditions that are also linked with this day. One of them is secular.
The sanctified basil with this occasion, is layed under the pillow by unmarried girls to dream of their future husband.
Babele (Old Women)
This legend revolves around Baba Dochia who was the leader of the old women in this myth.
Legend has it that she set off in search of spring, dressed with 9 sheepskin coats, throwing one by one because of the strong sun.
When she reached at the top of the mountain, she freezes due to inclement weather.
It would be said that this incident is a punishment from God because Baba Dochia was a very bad mother-in-law subjecting her daughter-in-law to impossible tasks.
One of them was that the daughter-in-law would bring her strawberries by the 1st of March, but with a miraculous help she fulfills this task.
Seeing the strawberries, Baba Dochia was convinced that spring had arrived and so she set off in search of spring.
Ursita is the name given to a fairy that is meant to shape the destiny of any newborn, from the first days of life. Tradition says that they were 3 fairies who would visit the child in his first week of life on the uneven days.
After the child is born, the midwife will place a plate of flour, salt, a slice of bread, a penny and a bundle of wool in his room.
The parents will know that the baby was visited by the fairies if after 3 days and 3 nights if in the flour can be spotted a trace.
The 30th of November – Saint Andrew’s Day
November 30 has a magical charge due to the number of traditions that are celebrated on this date.
One of them would be the dream of the next husband.
Tradition shows many charms that girls do to find out their next husband, but one of them would involve girls putting 41 grains of wheat under their pillows.
If girls dream at night that their grains are taken by a man, they will remember his face because he will be their next husband.
The same is practiced with holy basil from the Baptism of Jesus Holiday.
If this article aroused your interest in the Transylvanian land, come and discover Transylvania with CAO Tours team.