Culture of Romania

Romania boasts unique culture, which is caused by its location and particular historical legacy. Likewise its population, Romania is often regarded as the meeting point of three regions : the Central Europe, the East Europe and the Balkans, although it is NOT really part of any of those regions. Romanian unique identity has been possibly developed from melting of the Roman and most likely of the ancient Dacian elements, combined with various other impacts.

Romania’s culture is very similar to the other European cultures with some influences from Oriental parts and Slavic countries. Numerous excavations at sites such as Soporu de Câmpie, Obreja, Noşlac, Albă Iulia and many others demonstrate the persistence of the indigenous population throughout the 4th century and into the early 5th century. In Transylvania archaeologists have uncovered Roman funerary altars that had been converted into a new use as sarcophagi. In addition, tombs made of stone slabs or Roman tiles indicate that the local population made use of the Roman structures for their own purposes during the 4th century. A votive object dating from the 4th century was found at Biertan. It bears the traditional monogram of Christ with the inscription “Zenovius votum posui.” Two other nearby sites, Laslea and Bratei, have contained and produced similar artifacts. These and other excavation sites attest to the mixing of the native Dacians and the nomadic tribes who crossed Romanian territory. Contact was often simply to trade, but other times to intermarry and settle down in this rich environment.

The famous symphonic music festival “George Enescu” brings together some of the country’s best artists and some of Europe’s best finest lovers of classical music. More than 4,000 people attended the big opening night on the 31st of August, 2015 and the organizers estimate that 150,000 music lovers, including 20,000 foreigners had enjoy the 20 days festival, considered as the biggest of its king in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Romania is the place for slow living, the place for stories, things still made like once upon a time or like  grandparents used to. If visitors have the time and the eyes open enough, they might discover surprising stories. A well known ancient believe is “Sanziana’s Night”, also known as Dragaica which is one of the most spectacular celebrations in Romania. It is the night of summer fire set on the 24th of June, when young men light fires, especially on mountaintops, dancing and leaping over the flames and other ancients customs that differ from one region to another. Although they are associated to the Orthodox Christian celebration of Saint John the Baptist’s birth, Sanziana’s night has its origin in an ancient sun worship cult. The name may be changed from goddess Diana (zeita Diana). It marks the beginning of summer, as on the 21st of June it is the summer solstice, when the day is the longest and the night is the shortest. It is the time when the two parallel worlds emerge and many magical things may happen. Legend says that Sanzianas are beautiful fairies who live in the forests and on the fields and can be seen dancing in circle. According to tradition they fly with the wind, sing and dance, breed animals and heal the sick. The skies open on this magical night and miracles can happen. Sanzianas are good fairies but can do also bad if people don’t respect them. One of the customs is that on the morning of Sanziana’s day, before the sun comes up, you would pick flowers of Lady’s Bed-straw, make a crown, and throw it over the roof. If the crown gets stuck on the roof you would have a long life. Also, as a young girl, if you would put a bouquet of Sanziana’s flowers under the pillow, in the nights before the celebration, you would dream the man you will marry. The 24th of June is a good occasion to visit Romania, and to enjoy the celebration in a traditional village where you can find all there is to know about it…and even more, who knows. In Serbia there is the similar celebration of lighting fires of the SS Peter Day – setting big fire is an ancient custom which invokes good health of cattle and well-being of the household.

Ognjilo: Jovan Jorgovan – John Lilac (Rom. Iovan Iorgovan) is Romanian mythological hero who echoes the earliest remembered depiction of the hero Jarilo and later Saint George, like Kraljevic Marko – Prince Marko or Heracles in so-called Greek Mythology. The legend of Jovan Jorgovan – John Lilac is connected with the Black Valley (Rom. Valea Cernei) in the Carpathians in southwest Transylvania, and it says the following: is it spread tradition that once upon a long time, in Serbia lived an emperor who had a son who got sick from incurable disease. The emperor assembled healers from the whole country to cure his son, but they failed.  Then the emperor invited withes whom he ordered to heal his son, and the oldest one, when learned there is no way to cure the son, recommended the emperor to get a horse and food and money to his son, and let him go into the world. Child left and crossed the Danube River, and arrived to the Black Valley where he approached an old man and told him his hardship. The old man suggested Jovan to go and bathe in the nearby spring in order to heal his ilness. Jovan found that spring and for threee weeks bathed every day in its waters. At the same time when Jovan took baths in the spring, there was a snake who bathed also there, but they never saw each other. Jovan got cured and experienced huge power, while the snake gretly increased its size and turned into a dragon. Jovan Jorgovan decided to kill the dragon, and managed to cut off two of its three heads, but not the third head which was under the dragon waken from paints which started to erupt fire from its mouths. The dragon took Jovan downhill while melting everything he stepped  on and left traces of melted stone. Beneath the Cerna river Jovan managed to cut the last head of the dragon, but dragon entered the waters of the cave by Orsava. Since then rows of flies and mosquitos come out from this cave. The book „Jorgovan – myth, legend, balads”, collects 43 versions of popular balads dedicated to the mythical hero Jovan who was named after the spring flower of Jorgovan – Lilac. Authors comment on symbols of this unique traditional deed: forest – symbol of imaginative world, girls symbolize the Latin kinship (what on Earth Latin kinship?), sleeping – symbol of forgettness, loss of identity, coward symbolizes indifference, snake – symbol of repression, ie, ie…. In the recent times, the name of Jovan was changed into Iorgu Iorgovan when addressing in a loving manner, but Jorgovan remains Jovan.

Poor in stone, Romania was ever-since rich in abundance of forests – both in the plains, but also in the mountainous areas where wood surely made the main construction material. Distant tradition of this kind of building traditions has in Romania resulted in true and remarkable masterpieces. Those works are found in various forms of applied arts in rural, urban and boyar /noble rank – member of the old aristocracy/ houses, the village churches or lords’ endowments – as the traditional art created in the past which is still performed today. There is still a significant number of Wooden churches in Romania. They feature various architectural forms. The simplest and the smallest churches are those in Wallachia and partially in Bukovina, the most scattered are those wooden churches in Bukovina and Moldavia, but the highest and the most beautiful wooden churches are found in Transylvania.

The traditional Romanian folk arts, including dance, wood carving, ceramics, weaving and embroidery of costumes and household decorations, and fascinating folk music, still flourish in the country. Romania is adorned with many wonderful Orthodox monasteries, some of which date back to the 13th century. Medieval towns, fortified churches, painted monasteries, wooden masterpieces and outstanding ancient Dacian ruins are just some of the attractions that make up Romania’s exceptional cultural heritage.

25 of its beautifully preserved architectural gems have been included by UNESCO in the World Cultural Heritage in acknowledgement of their natural, scenic and monumental appeal. In 1929, on the territory of the Poiana village, now called Poiana – Vărbilău, Prahova county, in the valley of Slănic river, at the locality called “Vârful Fundăturii”, a beautiful golden helmet dating from the first half of the 4th century BC. was uncovered by chance. The helmet belonged to an unknown local Geto-Dacian king or to a local aristocratic noble, and today is kept in the National History Museum of Romania. Almost a kilogram heavy, the gold helmet is very well preserved, missing only the part of its skull cap. The form of the helmet and its decorations reveal the original character of the Geto-Dacian artwork and craftsmanship.

In 1931 a tomb of a Dacian prince not far form Histria (Dobruja). In the outer chamber were found the skeletons of horses, with the hammered silver plaques of their rich harness. The inner chamber contained the entire silver treasure of the prince himself. One of the vases is inscribed “Cotys”, a prince’s name. The tomb and treasure are from 4th century BCE.

Romania’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites are : Horezu Monastery, Medieval fortified churches of Transylvania, Historic center of Sighisoara, Painted Monasteries of Bucovina, Maramures Wooden Churches, Dacian Fortress of the Orastie Mountains.

Romanian History and Culture web