Romanian culture sets itself apart from others in the Eastern European region just as it shares some elements with them. For example, the legend of Dracula and the Dacian history are unique to Romania.
On the other hand, Romania's Easter egg traditions and folk costumes bear some similarities to those of nearby countries. Folk costumes are not entirely just for celebrations; while most of the residents of cities dress in modern-day Western attire, many in rural areas still wear traditional dress.
Roma, or Gypsies, are regarded as outsiders and generally live separate from the rest of the population on the outskirts of urban areas. They, too, dress in more traditional and colorful garb.
An overview of some of the aspects of Romanian culture such as Romania's flag, its ancient history, and folk art will show you how unique this country is. You'll get ideas for souvenirs you might find when you visit Romania and learn about other aspects of Romania that you'll encounter on your visit.
The flag of Romania is tricolor with three wide vertical stripes of blue, yellow, and red. The stripes stand for Moldova and Walachia, which joined to form Romania in 1859. Romania has had several flag designs; this most current one was adopted in December 1989 after the fall of Romania's communist government.
Interestingly, the Romanian flag is very similar to the civil flag of Andorra and the state flag of Chad, in central Africa. In 2004, Chad asked the United Nations to look at the issue, but the president of Romania responded that no changes would be made.
Romanians celebrate Christmas on December 25. Pagan themes of life and death are intertwined with Christian Christmas traditions.
While city dwellers no longer fatten a Christmas pig, most Romanians still keep up the tradition of eating pork for Christmas. Other dishes will accompany the main pork dish or be made from pork, and Romanian plum brandy may be served. For dessert, Romanians enjoy a traditional fluffy cake called cozonac.
Romania also has strong Christmas caroling customs that reference Romanian folklore. The act of going through the village, or from house to house, singing carols dates to pre-Christian times. Today, you'll see mostly children caroling.
The Real Dracula
Despite popular culture's fantasy images of Dracula, this bloodthirsty leader was a real person. Sights throughout Romania, like Bran Castle, are associated with Vlad the Impaler (also known as Dracula), and tours and events focus on his legacy.
Bran Castle was a favorite residence of Romania’s Queen Marie, and its museum honors the Queen and pays homage to the associations the castle has gained with the Dracula legend.
You can also explore Romania's region of Transylvania, with legends and hauntings of its own.
Bucovina, a region in Romania, is famous for its monasteries with painted frescoes and other historic buildings, as well as its natural landscape. These unusual buildings are a must-see on a trip to Romania.
The painted exterior walls of the monasteries are decorated with elaborate 15th and 16th-century frescoes, featuring religious scenes including images of Jesus, angels, and demons. You'll get a sense of how the villagers imagined heaven and hell from these frescoes.
The fortified monastery of Putna, also in the Bucovina region, is a popular stop. The scenic monastery complex, built in the 1400s, includes a tower gate, a bell tower, chapel, museum, turret, and the surrounding fortified wall.
"Martisor" is celebrated on March 1. Martisor is an old way of saying “little March,” and it is observed with the giving of martisor amulets as a way for Romanians to show appreciation to each other.
Martisor amulets may be nothing but twisted or woven threads, but often a small medallion or coin is attached, giving the amulet individual character. They can also take the form of a blossom, shell, ladybug, heart, or any other shape the maker chooses.
This tradition welcomes springtime and is similar to Bulgaria's Martenitsa holiday.
Easter in Romania
Easter is an important holiday on the Romanian calendar. Romanians, the majority of whom adhere to Orthodox Christianity, place significance on this holiday more than any others, including Christmas.
This day is marked by family gatherings, special foods, and the decoration of Easter eggs in traditional Romanian style. The days leading up to Easter are also important and are marked by traditions similar to those throughout the Christian world.
You can visit Easter markets for a sense of some of these generations-old customs and buy crafts made with techniques developed over hundreds of years.