In Romania, Halloween is not commonly celebrated, but there are a lot of other creepy celebrations. There are many strange traditions and customs that are still preserved today. Most of the traditions are related to death, and in each region of Romania there are various customs, so I decided to make a list of the scariest ones.
1. Dracula’s Castle: Legends about ghosts and vampires were stronger than history, and hundreds of thousands of foreigners come to Bran every year to look for Dracula, who is known for his immeasurable cruelty. The Irish author Bram Stoker was inspired in writing his bestseller from the history of the Brașov area – myths and legends about vampires and the ruler Vlad Tepes. The ruler was the cruelest ruler, impaling, burning, beheading and killing people. There are many myths and superstitions that appeared especially after the publication of Bram Stoker’s book about Dracula. The castle is so well known that this year on Halloween, the richest people on the planet and famous actors chose to celebrate Halloween in a private party.
2. Coliva: A dessert that is prepared to be served on the day of someone’s funeral. The family of the deceased prepares this dessert (made of gooseberries or wheat, water, sugar, salt, walnuts and raisins) to serve at the funeral to the people who came, in memory of the deceased person. The fun fact is that this dessert is the favorite of Romanians, and many prepare it even if they don’t have a funeral.
3. The pig almsgiving: Throughout the year, Romanians raise their pigs in order to kill them on Christmas Eve. It is a tradition that still takes place today. Parents even take pictures of their children sitting on the slaughtered pork. After cutting the pig, people select the meat to cook. Those who helped to kill the pig will be served afterwards with food pieces of meat representing all the parts of the slaughtered animal, fried in fat. People serve the meal together, in the place where the pig was slaughtered (of course, after cleaning the place). Romanians also eat pork skin grilled on embers/barbecue.
4. St. Andrew’s Day: The day is celebrated on 30th of November. It is said that the wolves become much stronger on this day, and that they go out to kill people and their cattle. No one works on this day because it is said that they must stay at home to be safe. In the past, people smeared the doors, windows, thresholds and fountains with garlic. Also, cattle were smeared to keep wolves away. In addition to this, the same night, the spirits of the dead, who did not reach the world «beyond», come out. People eat garlic to protect themselves from danger. In the past, people smeared garlic all over their bodies. They smeared absolutely everything with garlic to keep the undead from entering their homes. At midnight on St. Andrew’s Day, the girls turn a clay jug upside down, put 3 hot coals on the bottom of the vessel and say an incantation to win the heart of their beloved boy. The housewives turn all the mugs and dishes in the house upside down for so that evil spirits do not enter the house.
5. Day of the Dead: The day is celebrated every year on 2nd of November. Fresh water is taken to the graves until sunrise by children, because they are said to have clean souls. People light candles and clean the graves of the dead. It is said that on this day, the gates of Heaven are opened, and the souls of the dead come to visit people. In some areas, the day of the dead is celebrated in the spring, and the locals send their children to other houses with mugs filled with water, milk or wine, which they give them to people in memory of the dead.
6. On Easter, Romanians sacrifice a lamb to commemorate Jesus. In the east, in Banat, the lamb’s bones and other remains are buried at the root of a healthy apple tree, so that the family will be healthy all year round. The upper door frame is smeared with the lamb’s blood, so the people in the house will be spared from their sins. Romanians cook and eat the lamb on Easter. They also boil and bleach eggs in red. In other parts of the country, after eating the eggs, people burry the red eggshells at the roots of trees or throw them into rivers to announce the dead that they celebrate Easter.
7. New Year’s Eve: In the Bucovina in the north, on the last day of the year, there is a custom of The Bear. The ancestors of the Romanians had a cult of the bear, which they revered. People dress up as bears and dance to the music of drums or whistles. In other cities in the north, young people also disguise themselves as various characters, not only bears, but also goats, reindeer, deer, the ugly, the beautiful, devils, doctors and different monsters (see photos). The most famous custom in Transylvania is the Cracking the whips (ro: “Plugușorul”): it is a real show, with shouts, the sound of bells and the cracking of whips, along with texts that are either sung or shouted (young people also disguise themselves). In the south of Romania, the custom has the Goat as its star: carolers dress in the most colorful clothes imitating a goat’s fur and dance to the music sung/shouted by them.
8. Sânzienele or the Midsummer’s Day: The day is celebrated on 24th of June, around the summer solstice. In many areas of Romania, fires are lit on the hills and people walk with lit torches. The night before, girls put basil under their pillow to dream of their future husband. Sânzienele are fairies of love and freshness.
Romania has many scary traditions, myths, legends and superstitions, these being just some of them. Some of them are preserved even today, especially in rural areas. They are passed down from generation to generation and preserved over time.