International Lifestyle Magazine Issue 52 - Page 65

On Christmas day, children and grownups alike wander around, singing carols. They may come from all over the country, for instance from central and southern Transylvania, Crisana and sometimes from Banat. Traditionally, they perform their carols wearing masks. The mask stands for a god in his zoomorphic instantiation, impersonated by the group leader, who wears the mask while performing the carol. Turca (the stag, BORITA) is born at the same time when the mask is made, and it revels and makes merry with the group of carollers acting as its divine company, dying violently, club-beaten, shot or drowned, so that it may be reborn in the New Year. Quite often, the group’s leader has fun scaring women and children with the mask; at the same time he may ask for his due, the money’s worth he thinks he should receive for the ritual he performed, being offered the most honoured guest’s seat at the group’s ceremonial table. Tradition has it that the heavens open on Christmas night, so that the spirits of the deceased may spend time with their beloved ones who are still on earth. Several biblical characters, such as St. Nicholas, St. Demetrius and St. George can be seen sitting at the princely feast. During Christmas, a series of ritual deeds are performed, meant to purify the space through lighting a fire and putting on the lights; in the olden days, the Christmas log was sacrificed, whereby a fir-tree trunk was cut and burnt in the hearth on the night of December 24th; the ritual symbolises the Divinity’s death and rebirth, impersonating the year to come. This yearly sacrifice is part of an ancient burial ritual which has been replaced by the adorned fir-tree, laden with many gifts brought to children by Santa Claus. This custom became pervasive in the countryside, coming from the urban area, at the beginning of the 19th century, being also attested by the Romans, Serbo-Croatians and the Latvians. Thus, the Christmas tree we know today and the native custom of the blazing of the fir tree overlapped. During the Christmas period until St. Basil’s Day (January 1st ) in Maramures, the magical practice is known as “the tying up of the beast in the forest”, which consists of laying a loaf of ritual bread, named High Steward, on the table, which is then tied with an iron chain. After 8 days, on New Year’s Day, the loaf of bread is cut into slices eaten by children and animals, and the chain is put in front of the stable, so that the cattle may step over it. Join us here in and enjoy a Romanian Christmas, here on our magical countryside. Contact Details E-mail: andreea@sistravel.ro Web: www.sis-travel.com www.internationallifestylemagazine.com