Craciun Fericit* (Merry Christmas) From Romania
*(pronounced Cra-choon Ferry-cheat)
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..." Isaiah 9:6a
It's a cold December morning here in Romania (24 degrees F). The streets, roof-tops, and local mountains are covered in snow. I looked out the window this morning and saw icicles hanging from the roof edges, frozen in place.
Our family gathered last Saturday morning to fellowship and discuss Christmas in Romania. It's so important in the midst of "busy" to stop and just "BE" in this moment of CHRISTmas together.
We all agreed how much we enjoy it here in Romania. The celebration of Christmas is a "process" that goes on the entire month of December. Elli says, "I like that it actually has a 'start' time for all of us at the same time".
The first of December marks Romania's National Day, and the beginning of Christmas festivities. Every city, town and village has a parade or ceremony marking this day in Romania's history. It is followed by the lighting of the Christmas lights which have been hung in the streets. Most large cities will display a large manger scene (often with live animals), and most cities and towns (even ours) have ice skating rinks.
The evening of December 5th children have cleaned their winter boots and placed them by the front door. Old Man Nicolas is celebrated throughout Europe. (Europeans commemorate St. Nicolas, not Santa Claus.) Children awake to find their boots filled with special treats such as chocolates, tangerines, and maybe a small toy.
Much time and care is spent in preparing the home. Windows and rugs are cleaned early in the month, before the big winter freeze arrives.
December 23rd will be spent preparing cakes and their accompanying creams flavored with hazelnut or chocolate and rum. Also in preparation are "sarmale" (cabbage and pork rolls), and many other traditional foods (including cozonac bread,which is swirled with cinnamon and roasted chestnuts). These festive foods will be consumed on the 24th and 25th.
Everything is done with purpose and preparation. When December 24th comes - that is the 'big night". The Birth of Christ! Families and friends gather to eat and celebrate. During the evening Christmas carolers will go from neighborhood to neighborhood. They are traditionally greeted with refreshments of cakes and some even give children money. Many Romanians will attend a midnight church service.
The celebration will go on all night into the morning hours of December 25th. Then most towns will be completely still. Everything will be closed (except maybe some gas stations). The 26th is a continuation, and we will still be welcoming carolers.
The government shuts down, as do most business places throughout the season and into the New Year. This has its challenges (hospitals run short staffed, and stores will have bare shelves; trucks will not bring food into our area for several days - requires "being prepared") - but it's such a blessing to see people stand still for this most momentous day in world History - the birth of Christ our Lord !
"Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room..."
by Coleen Jejeran, Missionary to Romania