Customs over the year
In some villages of the county of Timis, traditions and customs are preserved for centuries. We have the opportunity to discover the rich and spectacular immaterial patrimony of the region of Banat, as a result of interaction of the different nationalities: Romanian, Serbian, Swabian, Bulgarian, Hungarian.
The custom of the young Swabians on St. Nicholas' Day: on December 6, the young Swabians are dressed in St. Nicholas' garments and go to the homes, seeking out disobedient children to punish them. The children are waiting for Saint Nicholas with clean boots, along with sweets, apples and walnuts to make him better. Only those who are good will receive gifts, and the naughty ones, Saint Nicholas will bring them a twig, with which they will be rebuked by their parents.
Burning badnjak – a Serbian custom, which takes place on the pre-Christmas day following the old calendar: a young oak trunk is burnt in the yard or in the stove, the fire symbolizing the warmth of the love of Jesus Christ. The household will be richer as the burned wood produces more sparks.
The most beautiful customs are those occasioned by Christmas and New Year holidays.
Christmas is celebrated with carol singers, dressed in popular costumes. Another winter custom is the Star - usually practiced on the first Christmas day, when the carol singers are symbolically rebuilding the way of the magicians at the place where the baby Jesus was born.
Viflaimul or Irozii is a popular theater, which consists in staging the birth of Jesus Christ in the house of the hosts. Serbian housewives bring straw into the house, these representing the place where Jesus was born, and beneath the tablecloths they put hay and seeds in order to bring harmony and abundance in their homes.
Calendars of onions are made in the evening of New Year's Eve. The onion bulb is cut into 12 pieces, meaning the months of the year. In each piece there is salt, the pieces that leave more water marking the rainy months.
Sânvăsiile, usually practiced on New Year's Eve at houses with young people who are about to get married. The eldest woman in the household places several items under nine plates, each of them representing a characteristic of the future bride or groom. The young men and women picked up three plates, finding out how their future partners would be. The polenta symbolized a gentle person, the ring and the mirror a handsome man or a beautiful woman, the comb - a toothed person, the coal an ugly person, the pencil symbolizing someone educated, and the needle, usually a hardworking woman.
Plugușorul is another New Year's custom, the carol singers going from house to house and wishing the hosts health, welfare, rich harvest and a happy New Year.
Spring customs are extremely spectacular and still active.
At the beginning of March, ”Mărțișorul” is celebrated, symbolizing the coming of spring. Mărțișorul is a braided string made of a red and white thread, which is given to close persons, accompanied by good wishes.
Măsurişul oilor is a celebration occasioned by the annual composition of herds for their ascension to the sheepfold. The custom is met in the Romanian and Serbian villages of Banat Montan where the shepherd is practiced.
The feast of the Lord's Resurrection has a special significance in this area, and this is evidenced by the habits practiced.
On the Holy Thursday the fires in the cemeteries are lit because it is believed that, with the resurrection of the Lord, the souls of the dead return to the earth.
On the Easter morning, the faithful people wash their faces with fresh water removed from the well, with a red egg, a silver pen and green grass threads. Thus they will be red in cheeks, full of energy, and will have a rich year. Then there is the incensation of food, each participant receiving a teaspoon of wine and holy bread.
On the second Easter day, the villagers wear traditional costumes and dance in the center of the village and in front of the church.
Mătcălăul or Ortăcia: the children make crowns from the branches of a blooming tree that they put on their heads; then they take their hands, surround the tree and exchange red eggs. Thus the children bind a close friendship that usually lasts until the end of their lives.
”Ruga” in the Romanian villages, or ”Slava” in the Serbian villages, an identity celebration of exceptional importance in Banat, is an occasion when all those who left the village (at the city or at work abroad) come back home. It usually takes place according to the tradition of each village, from Easter to Saint Paraschiva.
Ruga (Negeia) corresponds to the date of church sanctification in the community (in other parts of the country, the feast is called "hram"). The organizers are called "căpărași", and they go from house to house to gather the money that will be used to hire the musicians.
One of the distinguished members of the community will be designated the "godfather of Ruga."
The Kirchweih is a feast that was brought to Banat in the 18th century by the Swabian settlers, and is still held today in Catholic parishes, where the representatives of the main families emigrated to Germany in the last decade of the communist period come back home.
Among the autumn customs we mention: the feasts of houses in Banat Montan, the grapes ball (especially in the Hungarian communities), Day of the Dead (an exclusively Catholic feast three decades ago, November 1 is now a day of care for the graves and the commemoration of the dead in all the villages of Banat, regardless of the confession of the local people).
Information and photo sources
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