Christmas in Romania: demons, goats and pagan traditions

Bucharest, Dec 19 (EFE).- A fusion of Christian traditions and pagan elements marks this year’s Christmas celebrations in several Romanian rural areas, with “colinde”, Romania’s take on Christmas carols, standing out.

“On December 24, after dark, they will go from house to house to sing, sit at the table, eat, drink and join the hosts until they have visited all the houses in the town,” says folklore specialist Laura Jiga Iliescu.

Those conducting the visits wear costumes of demons or animals such as goats or bears.

Demons have a dual role; they are evil, but the noise of the bells and metal beads they make when they dance also scare away evil spirits, according to popular belief.

In the Jiu Valley, in western Romania, young single people go out carrying long canes wrapped with multicolored ribbons.

“The entire community participates; going through all the villages that are scattered around the mountain,” says Iliescu of traditions that date back to the Middle Ages.

In Transylvania, they perform songs depending on the house they visit. There are colinde for married people, children, the elderly, shepherds, fishermen and priests.

Although money has become the most common offering to those performing the carols, food and drink offerings remain a central part of the ritual.

Marian Barbos is one of the dozens of young people from all over Romania who traveled to Bucharest on December 12 to participate in a colinde festival.

“I have been doing this since I was a child,” the 15-year-old tells Efe.

“Every year on Christmas Eve, we will go out to town,” adds Barbos, donning a karakul hat and traditional clothing. EFE


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