Your Guide to Christmas in Romania

Experience the magic of Christmas in Romania, where ancient traditions and cultural celebrations unite to create a truly enchanting holiday season. Discover the warmth and hospitality of this Eastern European country and immerse yourself in its rich heritage of European Christmas traditions.

Christmas in Romania

From delightful Christmas markets to mesmerizing choir performances, Romania offers a unique experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression. Witness traditional dance rituals, explore customs and folklore, and indulge in holiday delicacies that are sure to delight your taste buds.

Key Takeaways:

  • Christmas in Romania is a magical experience steeped in centuries-old traditions and cultural celebrations.
  • Explore the festive charm of Romanian Christmas markets in Sibiu and Bucharest, where you can browse handmade crafts and local delicacies.
  • Experience the joyous sounds of Romanian choirs during the winter solstice in Timișoara, or at Midnight Mass in Bucharest.
  • Delight in the unique dance rituals of Romania, from the Bear Dance Ritual to the Călușari dance performances.
  • Discover the fascinating customs and rituals that are deeply rooted in Romanian folklore, from the observance of Ignat Day to the Throwing of Colaci ceremony.

What Makes Christmas in Romania Special?

Christmas in Romania weaves a tapestry of tradition and warmth that is unique to its cultural landscape, making it an extraordinarily special time of the year. The festive season is deeply rooted in folklore and religious customs, with preparations beginning weeks in advance.

Homes are adorned with intricate decorations, while the air becomes scented with the rich aromas of traditional cooking, featuring dishes like sarmale (cabbage rolls) and cozonac (sweet bread). The charm of Romania during Christmas is further amplified by the sounds of ‘colinde’—traditional Romanian carols that children sing when they go door-to-door, a practice believed to bring good luck and happiness.

The magical atmosphere is complemented by the bright lights and ornate stalls of Christmas markets, particularly in cities like Sibiu and Bucharest, which become hubs of joyous activity.

In Transylvania, the snow-capped mountains and picturesque landscapes create a stunning backdrop for the holiday festivities. Historic towns such as Sighișoara and Brașov are particularly charming during the winter season, with their cobblestone streets and colorful buildings. The medieval town of Sighișoara is particularly delightful, with its brightly colored houses, Gothic architecture, and picturesque clock tower.

The old towns in Romania are beautifully decorated during the holidays, with festive lights and vibrant displays adding to the magical atmosphere. Wander through the streets of Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, and Timișoara to soak in the joyous atmosphere of the holiday season.

Moreover, Romanian Christmas is marked by unique customs that reflect the country’s diverse heritage. One of the most visually striking of these is the ‘Dance of the Bear‘, a ritual where dancers don bear costumes and perform to drive away evil spirits—a practice that is both mesmerizing and steeped in ancient Dacian mythology.

Another distinctive tradition is the decoration of the Christmas tree with ‘chichilici’, small apples that are a symbol of health in the coming year. Communities gather in public squares, sharing homemade treats and hot ‘țuică’ (plum brandy), reinforcing the communal spirit.

This sense of community, the blend of historical tradition with familial warmth, and the sheer joy that permeates the cold winter air, all make Christmas in Romania a time of heartfelt celebration and cultural pride.

A Christmas Born from History

The historical background of Christmas in Romania is a rich amalgam of pre-Christian pagan traditions and Christian beliefs, culminating in the vibrant celebrations witnessed today. The roots can be traced back to the Dacians, the ancient inhabitants of modern-day Romania, who celebrated the winter solstice as a time of renewal and rebirth.

With the advent of Christianity, these customs were seamlessly woven into the fabric of the Christmas festivities, symbolizing the birth of Christ and the start of a new year. Over centuries, these traditions evolved and assimilated influences from various empires and cultures that came in contact with the Romanian people, including the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans.

This historical melding has resulted in a distinctive celebration that honors the past while embracing the spiritual and communal aspects of Christmas. The enduring customs, such as caroling (‘colinde’), the Bear Dance, and the sharing of special dishes, are a testament to the resilience and adaptability of Romanian cultural heritage, reflecting a history that has turned the festive season into a unique expression of national identity and joy.

Experience the Festive Charm of Romanian Christmas Markets

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the magical world of Christmas in Romania is to visit the enchanting Christmas markets that are held throughout the country during the holiday season. Two of the most popular markets are located in Sibiu and Bucharest.

Romanian Christmas Markets

At the Sibiu Christmas Market, you can stroll through rows of charming wooden stalls selling handmade crafts, local delicacies, and traditional gifts. Take in the festive atmosphere as you sip on a warm cup of mulled wine and listen to the joyous sounds of carolers.

If you visit Bucharest, be sure to witness the stunning Festival of Lights, where the city is transformed into a winter wonderland adorned with dazzling decorations and vibrant displays. Stroll through the streets and take in the breathtaking sights of the illuminated landmarks, sparkling Christmas trees, and colorful light displays.

LocationMarket NameHighlights
SibiuSibiu Christmas MarketHandmade crafts, local delicacies, carolers
BucharestFestival of LightsDazzling decorations, vibrant displays, illuminated landmarks

If you’re looking for a unique way to spend your holiday season, visiting the Christmas markets in Romania is a must. From the colorful lights to the delicious local cuisine, you’re sure to be enchanted by the festive charm of these markets.

Immerse Yourself in the Joyous Sounds of Romanian Choirs

One of the most enchanting aspects of Christmas in Romania is the music. Choirs are an essential part of the celebrations during the Romanian winter solstice.

Timișoara is an excellent destination to experience the tradition of holiday choirs. The city boasts a wealth of choirs, and you won’t be disappointed with the melodies they create. The choirs sing carols and hymns throughout the city, filling it with joyful sounds.

If you’re in Bucharest, you must attend the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. The choir at the Patriarchal Cathedral is world-famous for its performances. You’ll be swept away by the harmonious voices and festive atmosphere.

Experience the magic of Romanian Christmas music and immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of this beautiful nation.

Choir Performances in Romania

CityChoir NamePerformance Dates
TimișoaraCorul de Copii “Doina Timișului”December 24th, 25th, and 26th
BucharestPatriarchal Cathedral ChoirDecember 24th – Midnight Mass
Timișoara holiday choirs

Witness Traditional Romanian Dance Rituals

One of the most unique aspects of Romanian Christmas traditions is the captivating dance rituals that take place during the festive season. From the Bear Dance Ritual to the Călușari dance performances, each dance tells a story and celebrates the rich cultural heritage of Romania.

Romanian Bear Dance

The Bear Dance Ritual, a captivating facet of Romanian folklore, is most prominently featured in the Moldavia region during the Christmas season. This ritual is steeped in antiquity, with its roots reaching back to the times when the bear was a totemic animal, revered and feared for its strength and power. The performers, clad in elaborate bear costumes made from real bear fur or textured materials to resemble it, embody the spirit of the bear with an almost sacred reverence.

As the dancers move to the rhythm of flutes and drums, their movements are both a mimicry of the bear’s natural gait and a dramatization of its role in the cosmic struggle between light and dark, good and evil. The thunderous footsteps of the dancers, enhanced by the heavy costumes, resonate with the primal energies of nature and the ancient belief in the bear’s magical power to both end and regenerate life.

romanian christmas Bear Dance Ritual

Traditionally, this dance is more than mere performance; it is a ritualistic act that villagers believe serves to purify and fertilize the land. The ritual is performed during the period leading up to the New Year as a form of protection against malevolent spirits.

The bear, symbolizing strength and bravery, is thought to ward off evil and bring about good luck and prosperity. The performance peaks with the ‘death’ and ‘resurrection’ of the bear, a symbolic enactment that ensures the renewal of life and the triumph of light over darkness, aligning with the overarching themes of the Christmas season—rebirth, hope, and joy.

Other Romanian Tradional Dance Events

Dance RitualDescription
Bear Dance RitualMimics the movements of a bear and symbolizes a battle between good and evil
SorcovaChildren exchange wishes for good fortune using a beautifully decorated wishing stick
Steaua caroling traditionGroups of carolers sing traditional songs and spread holiday cheer, accompanied by the rhythmic beats of the toba drum
Călușari dance performancesIntricate footwork and movements with roots in pre-Christian times and said to have healing powers

Sorcova – A captivating New Year’s custom is the Sorcova celebration, observed on December 27th. Contrary to the solstice which occurs earlier in the month, this day marks a continuation of festive Romanian winter traditions. On this occasion, children carry a Sorcova, a festively adorned stick that’s believed to bestow blessings and good fortune. With this ornate stick, they visit neighbors and loved ones, lightly tapping them while reciting traditional well-wishing verses, symbolically transmitting vitality and prosperity for the coming year.

Steaua Caroling Tradition – This treasured Romanian practice involves bands of carolers wandering from home to home, their voices lifted in the melodies of age-old songs to disseminate the joy of the season. Accompanied by the resonant cadence of the toba drum, their harmonious processions bring an added vibrancy and spirit to the festive atmosphere.

Călușari Dance Performances – These dancers are a sight to behold, with their intricate footwork and intricate movements. The Călușari dancers present a mesmerizing display, captivating onlookers with their complex and precise footwork, as well as their fluid, elaborate choreography. This dance hails from an ancient past, with a lineage stretching back to pre-Christian rituals, and is imbued with a storied tradition of therapeutic influence.

Explore Traditional Romanian Customs and Folklore

Christmas in Romania is an enchanting time when centuries-old traditions and customs come alive, showcasing the charm and warmth of Romanian hospitality. Discover the unique cultural customs and folklore that make this holiday truly special.

Ignat Day Observance

Ignat Day holds a profound place in Romanian cultural heritage, marking the remembrance of Saint Ignatius of Antioch. It’s a day steeped in tradition, featuring the communal pig slaughter ritual, a practice that unites families in preparation for the winter feasts.

Together, they engage in the age-old culinary art of transforming the pork into an array of cherished dishes: savory sausages, crispy pork cracklings, and rich blood pudding. These preparations are not merely about food; they’re a celebration of togetherness and the continuation of ancestral customs.

Plugușorul New Year’s Chant

To welcome the new year in Romania, the tradition of Plugușorul involves singing a special chant that wishes for good luck and prosperity for the upcoming year. The unique and uplifting melody of this tradition is sure to fill you with joy and happiness.

Apple Hanging for Health

In the heart of the Christmas season lies a quaint and meaningful Romanian custom: the adorning of branches with apples. This act serves as a poignant emblem of desires for robust health and is steeped in symbolism, intertwining hopes for rejuvenation with the gratitude for autumn’s generous yields.

The apple, a fruit often associated with vitality and life, becomes a festive token of optimism and the cycle of nature’s abundance, lending a touch of pastoral elegance to the holiday’s spirit.

Throwing of Colaci

The Throwing of Colaci is a cherished ritual woven into the fabric of Romanian festive customs, wherein circular breads, known as colaci, are cast into the air to beckon good luck. This endearing practice is rich with symbolism, thought to sow seeds of prosperity and fortune within the home as the new year unfurls. It’s a moment of collective anticipation and hope, where tradition serves as a bridge between the past’s blessings and the promise of abundance in the year to come.

Immerse Yourself in Romanian Carols and Music

During the Christmas season in Romania, the air is filled with the enchanting sounds of traditional Romanian carols, known as colinde. These beautiful melodies are often accompanied by the rhythmic beats of the toba drum, a traditional instrument that adds a unique touch to the music.

The colinde are an integral part of the festive season in Romania, with many local choirs and musicians performing these captivating tunes during the holidays. These carols often feature lyrics that tell the story of the birth of Jesus and celebrate the joyous spirit of the season.

Romanian Carols and Music

One of the most popular carols in Romania is “O ce veste minunată,” which translates to “Oh, what wonderful news.” This joyful carol is often performed at Christmas services and celebrations throughout the country.

Another beloved tradition in Romania is the toba drumming, which involves playing a large, cylindrical drum made from animal skin. The drum is often played in conjunction with the colinde, creating a lively and upbeat atmosphere during the Christmas season.

Experience the Splendor of Romanian Festive Attire

One of the most visually stunning aspects of Christmas in Romania is the traditional folk costumes that locals wear during festive celebrations. These garments are intricately designed with vibrant colors and feature unique patterns that reflect the rich cultural heritage of the region.

The festive attire worn during Christmas in Romania is a way for locals to honor their ancestors and celebrate their traditions. These costumes are often passed down through generations and are carefully preserved as a symbol of pride in their heritage.

During the holiday season, you may have the opportunity to witness a folk costume celebration, where locals don their traditional attire and participate in lively dance performances. These events are a testament to the enduring spirit of Romanian culture and provide a wonderful opportunity to experience the country’s vibrant heritage firsthand.

A Closer Look at Romanian Folk Costumes

The intricate details of Romanian folk costumes vary depending on the region, but they all share common elements that make them unique to the country. The garments are made from natural materials, such as wool and linen, and are often decorated with intricate embroidery and beading.

Women’s costumes are typically adorned with colorful floral patterns, while men’s costumes feature bold geometric designs. Both genders wear hats as a part of their traditional attire, with women wearing intricately decorated headscarves and men wearing felt caps or brimmed hats.

Children are also included in these celebrations, wearing miniature versions of the adult costumes and participating in dances and other festive activities alongside their parents and grandparents.

Indulge in Romanian Holiday Delicacies and Traditions

One of the highlights of Christmas in Romania is the delicious array of holiday foods. Delight your taste buds with traditional Romanian dishes, such as the famous Christmas carp delicacy. This dish is typically served fried or baked with garlic and vegetables. Enjoy it with a side of mămăliga, a traditional Romanian polenta made with cornmeal and butter.

No meal in Romania is complete without a toast of țuică, a potent plum brandy that is a staple in Romanian culture. Take part in the warm and hospitable customs of Romania as you raise a glass and toast to the joyous celebrations of the holiday season.

Other traditional holiday foods in Romania include cozonac, a sweet bread filled with nuts, cocoa, and Turkish delight, and sarmale, a dish made of cabbage rolls filled with seasoned pork and rice.

traditional Romanian Christmas Meal

Experience the warmth and generosity of Romanian hospitality as you indulge in these delightful holiday foods. The traditions and customs of Romanian cuisine are sure to leave a lasting impression on your taste buds and your heart.

Visit Unique Romanian Winter Attractions

While there are many traditional Christmas activities to explore in Romania, there are also some unique winter attractions that are sure to capture your imagination. Whether you’re interested in exploring the macabre beauty of a cemetery or staying in a hotel made entirely of ice and snow, Romania has plenty of surprises in store for you.

The Săpânța Merry Cemetery

If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind experience, the Săpânța Merry Cemetery is well worth a visit. Located in northern Romania, this colorful cemetery is unlike any other in the world. The tombstones here are adorned with bright colors and playful epitaphs, celebrating the life and legacy of the deceased in a whimsical and irreverent way.

Romanian Ice Hotels

For a truly unforgettable winter experience, consider staying in one of Romania’s famous ice hotels. These hotels are made entirely of ice and snow, and are designed to provide a comfortable and cozy retreat from the cold winter weather. Some of the most popular ice hotels in Romania include the Balea Ice Hotel, which is located in the Fagaras Mountains, and the Ice Hotel in the town of Bucovina.

Whether you’re interested in exploring the unique winter attractions of Romania or simply enjoying the traditional Christmas festivities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during the holiday season in this enchanting and vibrant country.

Experience the Thrill of Skiing in Prahova Valley

As Christmas time envelops the Prahova Valley, its slopes transform into a winter wonderland, beckoning snow enthusiasts to partake in the festive cheer. Nestled amidst the snow-draped peaks of Romania, the valley’s ski resorts come alive with the spirit of the season, presenting a variety of pistes that cater to both novice and seasoned skiers.

Amidst the serenity of towering firs and the soft crunch of fresh snow, each glide down the frosty runs is accompanied by the enchanting vistas of the landscape, adorned in its yuletide splendor, ensuring every moment on the mountains is imbued with the magic of Christmas.

Explore the Festive Old Towns

The old towns of Romania are transformed into magical wonderlands during the holiday season, with shops and homes adorned with colorful decorations and twinkling lights. Take a leisurely stroll through the streets, listening to carolers singing Romanian colinde and filling the air with the sweet sounds of the season. The welcoming atmosphere, the warm smiles of locals, and the festive decor will make you feel right at home no matter where you come from.

These are just a few of the experiences that will leave you with unforgettable memories of Christmas in Romania. No matter how you choose to spend your holiday, the warmth, charm, and rich cultural heritage will make it a season you won’t soon forget.


What are some popular Christmas markets in Romania?

Some popular Christmas markets in Romania include the Sibiu Christmas Market and the Bucharest Festival of Lights.

What are some traditional Romanian dance rituals during Christmas?

Traditional Romanian dance rituals during Christmas include the Bear Dance Ritual, Sorcova Wishing Stick tradition, Steaua caroling tradition, Drumming of Toba, and Călușari dance performances.

What are some traditional Romanian customs and folklore associated with Christmas?

Traditional Romanian customs and folklore associated with Christmas include the observance of Ignat Day, the Plugușorul New Year’s chant, apple hanging for health, pig slaughter ritual, and the throwing of colaci.

What is the significance of Romanian carols and music during Christmas?

Romanian carols, known as colinde, are sung throughout the Christmas season. The rhythmic beats of the toba drum add a unique touch to the music.

Are there any festive attire celebrations in Romania during Christmas?

Yes, you may have the opportunity to witness festive celebrations where locals don traditional Romanian folk costumes, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the region.

Who is Moș Crăciun and what are the unique traditions associated with him?

Moș Crăciun is the Romanian version of Santa Claus. Discover the unique traditions and customs associated with his visit during Christmas in Romania.

What are some architectural treasures to explore in Romania during the winter season?

Some architectural treasures to explore in Romania during the winter season include the Maramureș wooden churches, Transylvanian snow scenes, and old towns adorned with holiday decor.

What traditional Romanian holiday delicacies should I try?

Indulge in traditional Romanian holiday delicacies such as the Christmas carp delicacy and toast with plum brandy to experience the warmth of Romanian hospitality.

Are there any unique winter attractions in Romania?

Yes, you can visit the Săpânța Merry Cemetery, where tombstones are adorned with playful epitaphs, and experience the magical world of Romanian ice hotels.

What are some memorable activities to do during Christmas in Romania?

You can go skiing in the beautiful Prahova Valley, indulge in traditional Romanian holiday foods, or simply soak in the festive atmosphere of the old town holiday decor to create unforgettable memories of Christmas in Romania.