Festival – Romania

Festivalul Danitinlor de Iarna

One of the grandest winter spectacle, taking place in Romania’s northwestern corner, is the “Festivalul Datinilor de Iarna” (Winter Customs Festival), organized in the town of Sighetu Marmatiei on December 27.

Masks hang from lamp posts and people pack the streets. More masks — part demon, part animal, part indescribable — hide the faces of young men who run through the streets as oversize cowbells hanging from their waists clang loudly. Far from idle Halloween fun, masks, here, are an old tradition, symbolizing fertility, the passing and renewal of time and the good and bad aspects of human nature. By the time the procession gets underway, everyone has caught the excitement and the anticipation matches that of teens at a rock concert. Accompanied by music and “colinde” (carols), some 40 to 50 groups representing virtually every village in Maramures region (Northwestern Romania) pass along the main street. All are in traditional dress, meaning, for girls and women, stiff white blouses with fancy work and puffy sleeves; white or flowered skirts partially covered by striped woven front and back panels; head scarves; embroidered black woolen vests; thick knee-high socks; a stiff ballet-type shoe called “opinci,” which laces criss-cross fashion over the socks; and white or black wool jackets. Large homemade bags, usually of a black and white checked design, hang by long twisted wool from shoulders. Some walkers reach into these bags to toss rice or grain toward the viewers which represents both prosperity and ridding oneself of bad fortune. Boys and men don similar jackets or a white, long-haired cloak, wide white pants, loose shirts, tooled leather belts, boots and tall hats of curly black or gray wool.

When a group reaches the reviewing stand, they earn a few minutes in the spotlight for a carol, a folk dance or a tune on old instruments such as the “trambita,” an extremely long horn, or the “buhai,” a small barrel through which horsehairs are pulled. Some young men ride beautiful horses with evergreen and ribbons braided into the mane and tails and red tassels hanging from the bridle. Gorgeous handmade saddle cloths are ablaze with patterns of colorful flowers. Signaling the end, a horse-drawn sleigh filled with white-jacketed youths, musicians and of course, Santa Claus passes by the crowd. Throughout the afternoon, folk musicians, singers and dancers perform from a stage set up by city hall.

The purpose of this festival seems to be to attract good luck for the new year and prevent bad luck. I also believe it is a way of welcoming the new year which is approaching soon.


Oxford Business Group. The Report Romania 2008. p. 189