The Romanian Orthodox Church celebrates several distinctly different holidays in addition to the traditional Christian holy days of Easter and Christmas. However, these celebrations include rituals and traditions not observed in other countries. Romanian Orthodox people also observe feast days as holidays, including the St. Nicholas', St. Mary's and St. John's days. In addition, the tradition includes holidays with roots in the ancient Roman culture that observe the changes of the seasons.
In Romania, the Christmas holidays span three days, celebrated from December 25 to 27. Christmas celebrations consist of an amalgamation of ancient Neolithic rituals and Christian observances. Until the 19th century, Romanians celebrated Christmas and the New Year on December 25. Separate celebrations of Christmas and the New Year have evolved in modern times; however, New Year for Romanians is Little Christmas. Santa, according to Romanian legend, is the shepherd leader from Bethlehem who appears as a rich old man with a beard of snow.
Orthodox Romanians fast for six weeks before the observance of Easter. On Easter, they traditionally eat feta, eggs, cheesecake and lamb along with other dishes. Colouring of eggs, symbolic of creation, includes special colours. The first egg coloured is red for the children; it protects them from the evil one. The second egg coloured is blue, symbolic of a young woman's love. The family members wash their faces with the third egg, boiled with fresh basil and a silver coin, on the first day of Easter --- a ritual believed to bring health and beauty.
Saints' Feast Days
In the Romanian Orthodox religion, the feasts of various saints are cause for celebration. For instance, St. Nicholas' day, observed on December 6 is a holiday to which children look forward each year. St. Nicholas brings the children presents after they polish their shoes, which they leave in front of a window before going to bed. Romanians celebrate the feast day of the saint whose name they bear. For those people without saint names, March 9 is the designated day of celebration.
Holidays of the Seasons
Orthodox Romanians also observe the ancient feast of the seasons. Martisor, celebrated on March 1, is the welcoming of spring. Women and girls wear red and white ribbons, symbolising life and purity, with small charms or coins attached. Summer begins with Sinzienele; this Midsummer's Eve celebration is a mixture of reverie, with young girls dancing like fairies, and ritual, in which villagers ask for a good harvest. During Dragaica, the harvest holiday, the most beautiful girl in the village dresses in the fruit of the harvest and runs through the streets greeting people with the other village girls following her.
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