Customs Along the Year

From spring to winter, the villages of Sibiu display folk costumes, as people from all five ethno folkloric areas of this county - Mărginimea Sibiului, Hârtibaci Valley, Târnave Valley, Secașe County and Olt County - promote traditions related to the religious holidays and the agricultural calendar. Some of these are deeply imprinted on the souls of the communities, being practiced without interruption, such as the ritual fires on Easter Lent, the Easter eggs dyeing, the goldenrod wreaths or children's Christmas carolling; other practices, though important for the community`s social identity, were not performed for years, but have been recently resumed by elders and youth, together: the Wheat-Harvest Mace in Cârța, the Adorned Ox in Topârcea, the Escape of the Lole in Agnita etc. Each of these customs is an indisputable proof that old traditions (re)gain in importance in present times, even if the villages` social, cultural and economic reality is constantly adapting to modern practice and many old beliefs are no longer known.


In SPRING, Easter is preceded by the ritual fires lit on the hills surrounding villages, the children becoming cousins on the First Saturday of the Lent, the “Viftania” custom in Rășinari and the gathering of willow twigs in Săliște on Lazarus Saturday, the Easter eggs boiling in onion peels and decorating with clover, rose or nettle leaves on the Holy Thursday. In Galeş village, people use fir wood and branches to build the House of the Lord inside the church, on the Good Friday. After the Resurrection service, people ritually greet each other with “Christ is Risen!”, “Indeed He is Risen!” and eat Easter eggs. On the second day of Easter, several traditions are performed: the Gift Giving by Young Couples in the village Rod, The Sprinkling of Maids and Wives and The Children's Games with Red Eggs.

FROM SUMMER TO AUTUMN, there is almost no time to rest: the shepherds from Mărginimea Sibiului go up in the mountains with their flocks, and only on Sunday Commands they find out the village news; on Ascension, special religious services are held in wheat fields and wheat wreaths are put on wayside crosses. On Pentecost, lads put up birch trees at the gates of the girls they love, and the community from Sebeșu de Jos performs the special knotted dance from Rusca, remembering 200 years ago events, when the peasants refused to work on a religious holiday. On June 24th, the community in Topârcea adorns an ox with goldenrods, woven carpets and towels, as part of the Sânziene rituals; on the Day of Saint Peter and Paul, the Saxons in Axente Sever celebrate Kronenfest: a young man is challenged to climb a 10-13 meter height pole and to get down a drinking flask placed under a large wreath of flowers, atop the pole. On St. Elijah Day, people from Cârța walk or drive carts to the wheat fields in the outskirts; there, the men reap, the women tie the sheaves and when the work is done, bundles of ears are tied together in the shape of a cross, locally called “buzdugan”, meaning wheat-harvest mace; this mace is carried to the house of the family whose crop was harvested and on the way, people sing “Mohului Hill”. A festive day is the grape harvesting on the Târnave Valley, when people start towards the vineyards in the ox or horse drawn carts which are filled with buckets, pails, casks and vats. Joyful yells and songs announce the end of the harvest, but in the households men continue the work with crushing the grapes all night long.

In WINTER lads gather in groups, choose their first leader, the second leader, the accountant, the cashier, the wine keeper, and meet every night to repeat old carols. In Sadu, on Christmas Eve, the lads go to the forest to bring the beech to the village. In Gura Râului, lads do not sing carols; instead, they perform men`s dances: “Căluţul”, “Banu Mărăcine”, “Căluşarii”, “Fecioreasca” or “Romana”. On the second day of Christmas, the lads from Tilişca sing carols in the church, and at the end of the religious service they dance in front of all the villagers; in Cristian, lads lift up the girls, while dancing a traditional “hora”. In Racoviţa, lads and married men perform alternately a stanza of the secular carol “Dana”, and the lads from Avrig perform the “Meteleaua” custom, competing in a procession of masked men. Similarly, the lads in Chirpăr disguise themselves in „lole” and roam the streets dancing and soiling people with soot or slipper cream.

Every 28th December lads from Mărginimea Sibiului and from villages on the other side of the mountains meet in Sălişte. The Reunion of the Lads is a tradition of over one hundred years old and it is a competition of the young people in folk dances. After the parade in folk costumes, the leader from Săliște thanks them for accepting the invitation to participate in the meeting of the dances, and then each group wishes for a better year; lads and lasses prove that they have learned and now practice the dances inherited from their parents and grandparents.

Children sing carols on Christmas Eve or in the morning of the Orthodox celebration. Some of them, dressed in folk costumes and wearing helmets, swords, ribbons, a star, perform the folk theatre inspired by the Birth of Jesus Christ. The custom is performed in the church, then at the neighbours’ houses.

The procession of the Bathing of the Johns in Tălmăcel (January 7th), the “Burduhoși” or Big-bellies and the Bears in Cârța (January 8th) and the Lole in Agnita (end of January) cross the settlements, casting away evil spirits and bringing health and prosperity in the New Year. The oxen-driven adorned carriage, the Romanian traditional clothes of the horsemen in Tălmăcel, the whip striking and the scary clothes of the “lole” or the Big-bellies, the Bear “costumes” made of hay ropes in Cârța are the main points of attraction of these customs.