New Year’s Eve is a folk holiday, which coincides with the church celebration of St. Basil the Great. The joy from New Year’s coming is specified in going ploughing, as the plough is pulled by oxen or horses, so that they can bring richness to the houses of their owners. This custom is known as “going with the little plough”. On this day, at midnight, people light a candle in front of the icon in order to be successful throughout the whole year.
The women compete to make brawn so that their face can be clean and tender. Again in order to have success in everything, people eat pork, not chicken, at the New Year’s Eve table, because the hen scratches the ground with its claws and throws it backwards, while the pig roots the ground forward. Red wine is drunk in order for the blood to be fortified. If some healthy table-companion sneezes that evening, it means that on the next day he/she is going to receive a present. According to the peasants, in order for the people to bring luck to their houses, it is good that they have a lit candle throughout the whole night, and on St. Basil’s Day to sew (if the one who sews is an unmarried lad or lass, he/she is going to get married soon).
It is a well-known custom to foretell whether the months of the year are going to be rainy or not by using the onion’s core. On New Year’s Eve (St. Basil’s Day) the peasants make the calendar for the next year. People take twelve leaves of onion, which they let dry, powdered with some salt. Every leaf represents one month of the year. In the morning the level of humidity of each leaf is examined. If the leaf is wet, then the month is going to be rainy, and if it is dry, then the month is going to be dry.
Also, on the first day of the year the godparent lifts the godchild on a beam, putting a pretzel on his/her head, which people fill with money and sweets. The child is lifted three times under one of the house beams, as every time it is pronounced: “God, help with good! God, help with health! May the Holy Trinity helps you!” The wish is made until the child is three years old.
Another custom is foretelling the future husband by the stakes of the fence. At night, the boy or the girl, blindfolded, counts backwards, from 9 to 1, the stakes of the house fence. The last one is marked with a red thread. In accordance with the way the stake looks in the morning, forecasts are made about the future husband or wife. If the stake is crooked, he is going to be ugly and crippled, if it is upright – he is going to be young and handsome, and if it is gnarled – he is going to be old and cross-grained.
On the first day of the New Year the people examine the trees to see whether they have frosted twigs – a sign that the year is going to be fertile. People shouldn’t lend money, because, according to the tradition, people whose pockets and purses are empty are not going to have any money and are going to be poor throughout the whole year.
On the eve of St. Basil’s Day, the lasses put two pork pieces on the charcoals in the fire, one of them named after the lass’s name, and the other one – after her beloved’s name, and if they get together while they are burning, then the lass is going to marry him; otherwise – she is not going to marry.
On the New Year’s Eve, the marriageable lasses go to some fence and blindfilded count the stakes, as they tie a red wool thread on the nineth stake. In the morning they interpret: if the stake is high and good-looking, then their future husband is going to be tall and handsome; if the stake is short and with many knots, the their future husband is going to be short and ugly; if it is rotten, it foretells the beloved is going to be sickly. The number of stakes usual for Northern Romania is interesting, but also the one usual for the upper course of the river Amaradia in Dolj.
On the New Year’s Eve, the lasses go into the cattle-shed and touch the lying ox with their foot, saying: „Hey, it’s time!” If the ox gets up, this means the lass is going to marry during the same year, and if he doesn’t get up, she continues to repeat and to count the kicks, calculating the year when she is going to marry. In the submontane region of the Carpathian mountains the lasses go round the cows and kick one who is lying and say: „Come on, it’s time! Come on, next time! Come on, next year! Come on, after two years!” and so on. And when the cow gets up, then the lass is going to get married.
Sources: Ana Daria Ionescu-Haidău, Sânzienile. Haralambie Bodescu, Universul imaginar-simbolic al folclorului din zona Amaradiei de Sus. Alexandru Doru Șerban, Valentina Șerban, Credințe, datini și obiceiuri în Gorj; Ana Daria Ionescu-Haidău, Sânzienile; Elisabeta Preotescu, Ion Marica și Constantin Mănescu, Logrești Moșteni – pagini de monografie, Editura Măiastra, Tg-Jiu, 2009;