By Alexander Grigorasenco

For everyone from a Christian culture Christmas is a very important holiday, and there’s no exception when it comes to Moldovans.Moldovais a small country situated in the eastern part ofEurope, where’s there been great influence from the Soviet regime, and like in many eastern European countries the religion is Christian Orthodox. This holy day makes us, as well as many other people, look at things differently, to accept and open our souls to our closest ones. There are a lot of similar traditions around the globe like the decoration of the Christmas tree that also happens inMoldova, as well as other traditions related specifically withMoldova. It is these special traditions that we’ll focus on here.

One of the major traditions is the Christmas fast which lasts for 40 days before Christmas, whereby people do not eat meat or any food that comes from animals like milk, eggs, and so on. Then on the morning of December 20, on Saint Ignat’s Day, the Christmas pig is cut up. No food is touched or eaten until the priest blesses the food. It is a more like a rite which still lives on in the majority of the Moldavian villages. The rite is a sacrifice to God which dies and is reborn. On this day no woman can work because it is considered a sin.

On Christmas Day, young men traditionally between 18 and 20 years old, but also maybe younger or older, sing carols, and also for New Year. It is a complex mix of good wishes, movement, dance and gestures. Some say it is a magical period so that what is wished for you or others will come true; so it is a tradition to wish people good luck for the following year, as well as prosperity and plenty in everything, plus many other positive wishes. For this event people get dressed in national costume. The carol singer first asks if the person accepts them or not, if yes they are thanked with sweets, pastry (bread and so on) and even money. If not welcomed, than all the good wishes and “magical effects”, which they bring to your house are turned away and will not come into your house.

Christmas or Craciun as we call it is a mythological God in parallel with the Roman God Saturn and the Persian parallel Mithra. Santa Claus in Romanian is called Mos Craciun, translated like Old Man Craciun which shows his age. In these carols they talk about how good he is to the people and how much good he brings to us. In the short term, Christmas is held for three days from December 25 till December 28, while in the long term Christmas is held for 19 days from December 20 till January 7. A curiosity of our traditions is that there was a change in the calendars from the old calendar (Julian calendar) to the new one (Gregorian calendar) so they could adjust the year cycle, since the split between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches there was a shift between these holidays this is why in our country we have the “New Christmas” which is on the 25th of December and the “Old Christmas” which is on the 7th of January. Also there is the New Year as there is the Old New Year.

One of the most important attributes of Christmas and I think I won`t be wrong in saying in every house on the earth is the Christmas tree. In our country the tree became very popular after the Second World War. Before that, pinewood was used at weddings as a symbol or at burials of young men or young women who hadn`t yet got married. The Christmas tree traditionally comes from German pagan traditions dating back to the 19th century. The tradition today is explained that the pinewood is a symbol of Butucul (the dead God) since pinewood is an evergreen tree and doesn`t die. On the top of the tree is the Star which symbolizes the star which showed the way for the three kings where Jesus was born. These traditions are also known inRomania, Serbo-Croatian and Latvian cultures. In schools they sing and dance around the tree. Children wait for the presents brought to them by Mos Craciun (Santa Claus).

It is a holiday which has an impact on everyone’s attitudes. It tells us to be closer to our family, to be more positive to the ones who surround us, to think positively about this moment and the future. Also it reminds us that there is nothing more important than the warmth of the family.