Traditions and customs of Romania

What traditions and customs are there in Romania?

To know the customs and traditions of Romania.


Food in daily life

Breakfast is usually a small meal of bread and butter, jam, and tea. Most of the food is eaten in the early afternoon. Mititei, grilled sausage seasoned with garlic, is a common appetizer.

Borsch, cabbage soup with bran, or ciorba, a soup of lamb, mushrooms, and other meats and vegetables, is often served as a first course. Main dishes are usually meat-based, such as tocana, a pork stew seasoned with garlic and onion.

Other popular dishes include sarmale, cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and meat, and mamaglia, a cornmeal dish often served with poached eggs. Vegetables are served as a side dish. Typical desserts include placinte, a kind of cake, and baclava, a pastry made from nuts and honey.

Local wines produced in Moldova and along the Black Sea coast are widely consumed. Tuica, a strong plum brandy, is also popular, as are beer and soft drinks.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

Wedding banquets include barrels of wine and tuica and a huge round loaf of bread shared by the bride and groom. The annual sheep festival, Simbra Oilor, a traditional festival marking the move of the herds to the high pastures, is celebrated with a large communal meal of cheese, meat dishes and tuica.


Traditionally, marriages were arranged by the couple’s parents through a matchmaker. The bride’s family was expected to contribute a dowry which normally consisted of linen and embroidery.

Traditional rural weddings were grand festivities to which the entire town was invited. The ceremony included not only the couple and their parents, but also grandparents, godparents, matchmakers, attendants, speakers, cooks, and many others.

Nowadays it is customary for young people to choose their own husbands, but some elements of the traditional ceremony are preserved. The bride’s hair is braided in an elaborate style, and she dons a crown of flowers, jewels, and ribbons. The groom wears a white leather vest and a hat decorated with feathers, flowers and leaves.

The best man shaves off the groom’s beard to symbolize his departure from his previous lifestyle. At the ceremony, both the bride and groom ask their parents to forgive them for leaving the family.

In their effort to undermine religion, the communists made civil ceremonies a legal requirement and discouraged church weddings. They also give women greater rights in marriage, including equal control of children and property.

When divorce laws were liberalized, divorce rates skyrocketed. To curb this trend, stricter laws were imposed in the 1960s, and divorce rates have dropped somewhat, but remain high.


Romanians are known for their hospitality and generosity. Guests are always fed. Men show their respect for women by tipping their hats, kissing the hand, or standing up to offer them a seat. It is also customary for young people to surrender to their elders.


Religious beliefs

Seventy percent of the population is Romanian Orthodox, six percent is Roman Catholic (of which three percent is Uniate), six percent is Protestant, and eighteen percent profess no religious affiliation. Under communism, religion was suppressed; churches were destroyed and clergy arrested.

The government restricted religious practice, but did not prohibit it. The Romanian Orthodox Church as a whole did not oppose the government, and in many cases the priests were used as tools of the administration.

Romanian Orthodoxy traces its history back to the Great Schism between Eastern and Western Christianity in 1054. The Eastern Orthodox Church, of which the Romanian Orthodox Church is one of its branches, has developed a more mystical bias than Roman Catholicism.

Icons – images depicting Christ, angels, saints, and other holy figures – occupy an important place in Orthodox practice. They are considered a connection between the earthly and spiritual realms; the saint is believed to be embodied in the physical materials of the icon.

Religious professionals

The highest figure in the Eastern Orthodox religion is the Patriarch of Constantinople. He is not considered infallible. Many Romanian priests lost the trust of their parishioners by working with the secret police during the communist regime.

Some resisted, such as Laszlo Tokes, whose opposition to government intimidation led to popular acts of rebellion that ultimately led to Ceausescu’s ouster.

Rituals and sacred places

Romanian Orthodox churches follow a specific pattern in the placement of icons. On the door there are usually life-size representations of the archangels Gabriel and Michael, above which are several rows of other icons, including saints, martyrs and apostles. Inside the church there is a wall called an iconostasis where the images are displayed.

On a saint’s feast day, that icon is placed on the altar for worshipers to kiss. It is customary for a family to also have an icon in the house. Upon entering a house, guests pass each other and bow to the icon before greeting their hosts.

The Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is the central ritual in Orthodox services. During Sunday morning services, hundreds of candles are lit and the smell of incense fills the church. Worshipers do not sit or kneel, but stand erect.

Easter is the most important holiday in the Eastern Orthodox calendar. Their observation begins on Palm Sunday, when palm fronds or pussy willows are brought home from church. This is followed by the forty-day atonement period of Lent, which ends on Good Friday. Easter Sunday, three days later, is celebrated with elaborate eggs, parties and a midnight mass.

Christmas celebrations begin on December 6 (Saint Nicholas Day), with family parties. The night before Christmas, young people dress up and sing colinde, traditional songs that express the hope of good luck.

Death and the afterlife

The belief in vampires popularized in the late 19th century by the Dracula story has a long history in popular culture and is still followed in more traditional rural communities. It is believed that sometimes the soul does not leave the body after death, in which case the corpse does not rot, but instead haunts the deceased’s village and can claim victims with a touch or even a glance.

Garlic is believed to help keep vampires away, as are food offerings made on St George’s Day (April 23) and St Andrew’s Day (November 29). The custom of covering mirrors in the home of the deceased has its origin in vampirism and the fear that the spirit of the deceased sees the reflection of it and cannot leave.

Secular celebrations

New Year’s Day is celebrated on January 1 and 2. In Moldova, the new year is brought in by a procession of people dressed as goats. In a rural tradition called plugusorul, a plow is decorated with green leaves and is pulled around the village.

Labor Day is celebrated on May 1 and 2, Independence Day on August 23 and 24, and Romania’s National Day on December 1.

Different regions have spring and summer festival traditions, including the Juni parade in the city of Brasov, which is celebrated with parades, and the sinzienele, which is observed throughout the country around the time of the summer solstice.

The arts and humanities

Arts support

Under communism, the government forced artists to join unions, which supported them but censored their work. Today there is less state support for artists but more creative freedom.


National literature has its roots in early ballads and folklore. The ballad form, which was most popular between the 16th and 19th centuries, often included pastoral tales sung to the accompaniment of a lute or zither. The best-known folk tale is that of Dracula, made famous by foreign authors.

Ion Creanga, a 19th-century writer, was famous for his use of traditional storytelling techniques in fiction and memoir. Most contemporary writers are known for mixing politics, history, and literature.

At the end of the 19th century, the Moldovan poet Mihai Eminescu celebrated the country’s history and culture. In that period, Ion Luca Caragiale wrote comic plays dealing with political themes.

Romanian writers have made considerable contributions abroad. Tristan Tzara, who left for France during World War I, was one of the founders of the Dada movement. Eugenio Ionesco (1912-1994), another expatriate who lived in France and wrote in French, composed the famous absurd dramas The Rhinoceros and The Bald Soprano.

Graphic arts

Traditional art forms include woven woolen rugs, pottery, and woodcarving. More folk art is preserved in the northwestern region of Maramures than anywhere else in the country. The portals, doors and windows are carved with elaborate designs. Traditional costumes are also works of art, often with elaborate embroidery and an embellishment of tiny glass beads.

In the 19th century, after studying in Western Europe, several painters became famous, including Nicolae Grigorescu, known for his landscapes and depictions of rural life, and the portraitist Theodor Aman.

Social realism dominated in the post-World War II period as the communist government forced artists to produce works that glorified industrial workers and political leaders.

The most famous modern artist was Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), a sculptor who made his home in France. He worked in wood and metal, creating abstract representations of people and nature. At the end of his career, he was invited to create various sculptures for exhibition in Tirgu-Jiu, his hometown. His works The Kissing Gate and Table of Silence are in a public park there.

Performing arts

Romanian folk music is often lugubrious, like the doina from the Northwest. Common instruments include nai (panpipes), tembal (dulcimer), bacium (a long woodwind), gorduna (small double bass), and violins. Many folk musicians are Roma.

The national dance is the hour, a circle dance performed on festive occasions. Different regions have unique dances performed in pairs and groups.

Several Romanians have excelled in classical music, including the pianist and conductor Dinu Lipatt and Georges Enesco, a violinist and composer whose work has been influenced by traditional folk songs.

Theater companies from Bucharest and other cities perform theatrical productions of Romanian classics, as well as contemporary works by national and foreign playwrights.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Bucharest became one of the centers of Eastern European cinematography. In 1957, Ion Popescu-Gopo won a prize at the Cannes Film Festival for an allegorical animated film called Brief History.

Romanian filmmakers tackled the repressive political environment of the 1970s in “iceberg films,” in which they disguised social and political statements in seemingly innocent stories.

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