Traditions and customs in Romania - January

Traditions and customs are inherited from ancient pagan times, adapted further, once the transition to Christianity. They are celebrated the most in the countryside, the keeper of these traditions. Thus, in addition to religious customs, every season celebrates rites related to various lucrative activities, in relation to the earth or nature, social relations in the community, including those related to important celebrations in the life of the inhabitants (birth, baptism, marriage, death).


January is almost over. This year the snow came late. Outside it is snowing; the days are short and the dark comes fast; the fire burns smolderingly in the stove and the grandma tells us stories about the customs of this month:

“The name of the month of January comes from the god Ianus from Roman mythology. According to the legend, it had two faces: one oriented towards the year ending and the other towards the following year. 

On January 16, “Saint Peter of winter” is celebrated, this day being considered the middle of winter and favorable for picking medicinal plants. From a biblical point of view, the episode recounted in the Acts of the Apostles in which Peter was unchained and freed from prison by an angel is commemorated. Sân Petru is considered by tradition to be the patron saint of wolves, that's why people never walk through the forest on this night. Petru's brother, Andrei, is by contrast the one who chases the wolves and protects households and people from them. The two biblical figures were superimposed on an older mythological tradition, the one in which the twins Zalmoxis-Apollo and Artemis were raised by the shepherd Aisepos and his wife Britolagis, nicknamed the "Wolf". Britolagis had two more sons, Petru and Andar, who became Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint Andrew the Apostle after Christianity. Since both were sons of the "Wolf" and half-brothers of Zalmoxis-Apollo and Artemis, the tradition associating these two saints with wolves.

January 17 and 18 are known as "Athanasii", from the names of the two saints celebrated in this interval: Anthony the Great and Tănase. There are bad days, of frost, heatstroke, headaches, dizziness and illnesses; that's why in the country people used to cast prays against cursing.

On January 30, the Saints Three Great Hierarchs are celebrated: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John the Golden Mouth. There is no work on this day, but in most areas of the country, cattle are dehorned, the hair around the horns and the tip of the tail is trimmed, so that the animals grow beautiful and fast. In the other areas, this custom is practiced on the day of Sân (Saint) Toader.”

About the medicinal plants harvesting.

“Tradition says that the most auspicious day for picking, this month is the Winter Saint Peter's Day (January 16). Mistletoe is especially harvested, a plant with curative properties for lung diseases, coughs and certain forms of cancer. Mistletoe also helps to improve the blood circulation. The plant also contains an active toxic substance, used in the case of tumors, called viscotoxin. Since this is toxic in large quantities, the people avoid eating the fruits or boiling the leaves and choose instead only some certain varieties of mistletoe, less dangerous (such as those grown on apples). From the mistletoe bush, only the young branches and leaves are chosen, from the top, which are prepared in the form of maceration in cold water or infusion in warm water. In the popular belief, the mistletoe brings good luck, that's why sprigs of it are hung on the door frame at the entrance on New Year's Day.”

About taking care of the livestock

“The stables are taken care of so that the cattle do not get cold when there are severe frosts. The stables are cleaned in the evening, when it is not too cold. Good fodder is given to the cattle and especially to the calving cows. Servants are bargained for and covenants are made.”

About the social life, wishes and dreams

“During Saint Basil's Day, girls pour lead to find out their luck and women make pies to be fat and tender over the year. The boys walk with the plowman. On the eve of the Epiphany, the girls steal basil from the pots and put it under their heads at night so that they can see their betrothed”

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