Nativity of Christ or Christmas is one of the oldest Christian holidays. With it ends the long and important period of the Nativity Fast. The holiday is also a day of balance for each family at the end of the year is preceded by the custom to sacrifice a pig on St. Ignatius’ Day (20th December). At the night of Christmas Eve the children gather and sing Christmas carols, as they are welcomed by the hosts with pretzels, apples and walnuts.
Customs, traditions and beliefs
In the Northern part of Oltenia the carol-singers go about in the morning and while the hosts are waiting for them at the gates, they greet them saying: „Are you going to give to us or not?” On Christmas Eve, the families gather everything they have lent in the village so that they could have everything for the holiday and not to have losses. Women put a walnut in the water in which they wash themselves, so that they can be healthy as walnuts, and a coin, so that they can be rich. The landlords touch with their hands all the instruments in the yard, so that they can use them with health and their work to go smoothly.
Also, a horseshoe is put in the copper from which the landlord drinks water, and after that the water is given to the livestock, so that they can be strong like iron. The hens are fed from a sieve or strainer so that they can lay many eggs. While the Christmas holidays continue, the pitchfork is hid, because it is believed that whoever sees he/she can be bitten by a snake that is long and thick as a pitchfork .
At Christmas the shepherds put a wrapped piece of salt under the house threshold until St. George’s Day (23nd April), when they take it out, grind it and mix it with bran which they give to the sheep for health and multiplication of the herd. On this day the bread is under the table for luck, and straw is put under the tablecloth for abundance. In the four corners of the table is put garlic and poppy seed against evil eyes and curses. The chimneys are shaken and the soot is put in the roots of the vines and the trees for a rich harvest.
According to the belief, at Christmas the heavens are open and the good people see God sitting at a table with angels and saints. Before they enter in the house, the landlords go through a piece of iron so as to be healthy throughout the year and they carry inflammable objects in their hand, which they throw in the hearth saying: „May God gives us abundance!”. In some areas, the fruitless trees are „threatened” with the axe, as it is repeated three times „Yield or I will cut you down!“.
It is good to eat poultry meat on this day, so that the life of the table-companions can be light as a bird. Also, one should eat fish and bread from unwashed wheat, so that the guests can get satiated and to remain sated throughout the whole year. It is said that on this day the oxen talk to each other, and the one who hears them has his mind troubled. The lasses, after they wash themselves, put the comb and the soap under the pillow to dream about their future beloved. In order for them to dream about him, they put any food under their window, believing that he would come to taste it and in this way they could see him. On this day the house is swept up, but the rubbish is not thrown away, so that there are not damages for the livestock.
Sources: Ana Daria Ionescu-Haidău, Sânzienile; Alexandru Doru Șerban, Valentina Șerban, Credințe, datini și obiceiuri în Gorj.