How is Christmas celebrated in Romania?

If you are a foreign citizen or expat settled in Romania, you might be curious about how is Christmas celebrated here, compared to other countries.

Although the celebrations are quite similar all over the world, there are also some specific traditions, which we will present to you below.

When is Christmas celebrated in Romania?

Compared to Easter, which is celebrated every year on a different date in Romania according to the Orthodox religion, Christmas is celebrated on the same day as everywhere in the world: December 25th.

One day before, on December 24th, when people go caroling and some families even open presents, we celebrate Christmas Eve.

But in other parts of Eastern Europe, the timing is a little different. The Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and even Russia keep the old Orthodox tradition, with Christmas celebrated on January 7th.

With whom do we celebrate Christmas?

In Romania, Christmas is more of a family celebration. We generally spend Christmas and Christmas Eve with our extended family, while other winter holidays such as New Year’s are usually celebrated with friends and acquaintances at parties.

So Christmas in Romania is somehow similar to Thanksgiving in the USA. It is a time when the whole family gathers together, usually around a rich meal.

Where do we celebrate it?

Since Christmas is generally a family holiday, most people gather at a relative’s house for lunch and a nice chat.

However, it is not unusual for some people to celebrate in a more modern way. Young people sometimes choose to travel for Christmas, inside the country or on trips abroad or go to restaurants and clubs.

How is Christmas celebrated?

Here are some differences between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself.

Christmas Eve, on December 24th, is not necessarily either a legal holiday or an official religious holiday, and in more religious communities it is even the last day of fasting. So not everyone can gather on this day with family and friends, some people even go to work on a normal schedule. However, traditionally, on the evening of Eve, children go caroling and receive nuts, apples or even money from relatives and neighbors.

Christmas Day itself, on December 25, is a public holiday where people stay at home with family and friends. As a rule, you don’t have to go to work on this day and most shops and public institutions are closed, so you have more time to relax with your loved ones.

Gift-giving is also an important part of Christmas in Romania. Depending on the customs of each house, children or even adults receive gifts on Christmas Eve, so on December 24, or Christmas morning, the gifts are left overnight under the tree.

Why do we celebrate it?

Christmas is mainly a religious holiday because we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But for many people, it has become more like a commercial holiday, which has an interesting history in Romania.

Before the Romanian Revolution in 1989, that threw down the communist regime and leader Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romanians were not allowed to celebrate Christmas as a religious tradition. In the time of communists, everything from the Orthodox religion was forbidden, from churches, to baptisms and even characters that did not necessarily have religious basis – like Santa.

Therefore, Santa Claus was forbidden before 1989, being replaced by the character ,,Moș Gerilă” (“Gerila Santa”), a rather similar old man who could also brought gifts to children.

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