With Romanians, the winter feasts are full cry from 24 December to 7 January. There central events occur during the Christmas Day, New Year and Epiphany, with their respective events. The most important feature of these feasts is their incomparably reach repertoire of customs, traditions, and believes, of artistic, literary, musical, choreographic and other folklore events, which make the winter holidays to be some of the most original and spectacular spiritual manifestations of the Romanian people.
Children and lads go from house to house singing Christmas carols, or through the streets on New Year's Eve reciting congratulatory verse. The whole traditional village participates in waists, although this custom is practiced by children mostly. They are organised in troops, according to a well-ordered hierarchy, each with its own chosen leader and established meeting place. This is a the dominating structure in village life during the Christmas-tide festivals.
Another custom practised by children individually on New Year's Day is a 'sorcova'. This is a small branch or stick adorned with differently coloured artificial flowers, cooled sorcova with which they touch rhythmically their elders lightly, while congratulating them on the occasion and wishing them a long life to a hoary age and a Happy New Year in a specific recitative of forty words, corresponding to the forty touches with the sorcova (from Slav. soroku = forty), which runs somewhat as follows:
The Merry sorcova
Long may you live,
Long may you flourish,
Like apple trees,
Like pear trees,
Like the rich autumn
Overflowing with abundance,
Hard as steel
Fast as an arrow,
For many years to come!
Happy New Year!
A similar custom is practised by the children of Hunedoara (in Transylvania) on Christmas Eve, when they go from house to house with a nicely printed headkerchief tied to a lance, locally called pizără, (whence the name of the groups of children: pizărăi) which represents a kind of sorcova reciting:
As many lumps of coal in the hearth,
Just as many suitors to the lass;
As many stones in the river,
Just a many wheat stacks in the field;
As a many chips from the cutter,
Just a many children around the hearth!
Another interesting and decorous custom is the Star (Steaua). This is a large star made of coloured glossy paper, lighted inside like a lantern, which school children, in a groups of three carry in the evening of Christmas-tide from house to house, singing a star-recitative celebrating Christ's birth:
The Star is rising high,
Like a hidden mystery,
The Star shines brightly,
And to the world announces,
That today the pure,
The immaculate Virgin Mary,
Gives birth to Messiah,
In that famous city,
Known by the name of Bethlehem.
The traditional gifts which children expect to receive include fruit, nuts, pastries, and knot-shaped bread, which is itself a symbol of abundance and rich harvests. It is also customary to give them small sums of money in coin.