International Lifestyle Magazine Issue 52 - Page 64

T CUTTING THROUGH M E Exploring a traditional Romanian Christmas R omanians spend the Christmas holiday in a special way, which is closely connected with traditions and customs which are deeply rooted in centuries-old history, elements of the rituals performed today remind us of the Neolithic age. A very long time ago, in southeast Europe, Christmas was a solstice celebration and the inhabitants of the area celebrated the solar deity bearing a similar name. The denomination “Mos” indicates the worshipped character’s old age, a character that must die in order to be reborn at the same time with the New Year. In many European countries, Christmas and the New Year were jointly celebrated on December 25th, and the custom was preserved in Romanian Principalities until the end of the 19th century. The memory of those days continues to be alive in the collective memory of several dwelling places from Banat (Western Romania) and Transylvania (Central Romania), since The New Year is also known as Little Christmas. In Romanian Culture, Santa Claus, Mos Ajun’s elder brother, identified as Saturn, the Roman god and as Mithra, the Iranian God, is an ambivalent character, having miraculous powers typical for the heroes of folk tales, as well as shortcomings typical for the mortals. As an apocryphal character, Santa Claus was born “before all the saints”, being “the shepherds’ leader from the village where Jesus was born“. Santa Claus appears in big houses and stables full of cattle, as a rich, elderly man, an old shepherd with a beard of snow. The Christmas celebration lasts 3 days (December 25th-27th), however, in a broader sense it lasts a total of 19 days (December 20th-January 7th). The customs, magical practices and rituals whereby the world is symbolically recreated, mainly through Santa’s annual’s death and rebirth, can be broken down into two symmetrical periods. These are separated by a moment of “cutting through time”, from which the counting of days begins; thus, the ensuing first period is a rather illfated one, spanning between the Ignat (the pig’s ritual sacrifice) and the midnight before Christmas or the New Year, followed by a beneficial period spanning between the midnight before Christmas or New Year and Saint John’s Day. The former period is abundant with customs remembering the deceased to which Dionysiac cult elements are added, whereas the latter includes temporal rebirth practices, typical for the new year’s creative beginning.