Buna ziua, Merlynne! ('hello, Merlynne' in Romanian)
I researched Romanian cuisine and traditions for you. I have compiled the information I found on the best sites, and here it is. Have fun with the fic, and let me know how it goes. Va rog (please) PM me when it is validated; I love Charlie-in-Romaina fics, and it sounds like you are committed to making this one authentic.
La revedere, (goodby)
Mulaumescu-ai aie Doamne
c-am mâncat ai iar mi-e foame
Thank you Lord
for I have eaten and I am hungry again
Romanian traditional foods heavily feature meat. Cabbage rolls, sausages, and stews (like tocanita) are popular main dishes. Muschi poiana consists of mushroom- and bacon-stuffed beef in a puree of vegetables and tomatoe sauce. Another traditional Romanian dish is the the salty, grilled carp called saramura.
One of the most common dishes is mamaliga, a cornmeal mush, long-considered the poor man's dish ("N-are nici o mamaliga pe mas?" - He hasn't even a mamaliga on the table), but it has become more appreciated in recent times. Mamaliga is often served with sour cream and cheese on the side or crushed in a bowl of hot milk (mamaliga cu lapte). Sometimes slices of mamaliga are pan-fried in oil or in lard, the result being a sort of corn pone. Traditionally mamaliga is cooked by boiling water, salt and cornmeal in a special-shaped cast iron pot called a ceaun.
Pork is the main meat used in Romanian cuisine ("Peatele cel mai bun, tot porcul ramâne" - The best fish will always be the pork), but beef is also consumed, and a good lamb or fish dish is never to be refused.
Different recipes are prepared depending on the season or for special events. For Christmas, a pig is traditionally sacrificed by every family and a wide variety of recipes are prepared, including: cârnai (or carni) - a kind of long sausages with meat, caltaboai (or cartaboai) – sausages made with liver and other intestines, piftie – made with difficult to use parts like the feet or the head and ears, suspended in aspic, and also tocatura (a kind of stew) is served along with mamaliga and wine (so that the pork can swim) and of course sweetened with the traditional cozonac (sweet bread with nuts or lokum - rahat in Romanian).
At Easter, lamb is served and the main dishes are roast lamb and drob - a cooked mix of intestines, meat and fresh vegetables, mainly green onion, seved with pasca (pie made with cottage cheese) as a sweetener.
Romanians drink a great deal of wine. No meal would be complete without it.
Zama is a green bean soup with chicken, parsley, and dill. Romanians also love pilaf and moussaka, vegetables prepared in various ways (including stuffed peppers), and polenta.
Desserts! Ah, desserts. Traditional Romanian desserts may resemble baklava. Other pastries may best be described as 'danishes' (pastries with cheese filling). Crepes with various fillings and toppings may also be on the typical Romanian dessert menu.
Eek! That is probably more then enough on food. Plus it is making me hungry. So, lets move on to New years customs...
Romanian New Year
On New Year’s Eve, children sing Plugusorul and Sorcova, traditional songs that wish good luck, happiness and success. You can hear the ringing of the bells and the imitations of bull bellows most of the night.
Picture to yourself a 'midwinter mardi grass.' Lots of masks, costumes, bonfires, and song. Plenty of food and games for all. Young and old tumble out side to enjoy the fun. They dance, they carol, they probably play pranks on each other (Charlie might be able to hold his own there, with Fred and George for brothers.)
I've pieced together some of the various customs and traditions. The cultural gap sometimes leaves me high and dry when it comes to understanding the meaning of some of them. Good luck, and here goes:
The Goat/Bear/Mask Game
A bear is impersonated by a young man wearing the coat of a killed animal that is adorned with red tassels on its ears on his head and shoulders. Sometimes, the mask used is made to look like a bear's head; a wood skeleton covered with a coat and its body with a rough cover, woven in such a way that it might suggest the characteristic fur. This mask is then worn by a young man wearing the bear coat and by several fiddlers, and it is followed by a whole procession of people. Some of the children dress up as bear cubs. They sing: "Dance well, you old bear, / Because I give bread and olives." The masked man grumbles and imitates the jerky steps of a bear, striking violently against the earth with his soles while the drums and the pipe are playing. A similar game is played when the goat is impersonated. (It's their custom, not mine! Bread and olives? I'm confused too.)
All of these customs originated in sun-worshiping rituals. They were trying to call back the sun, since the world had reached mid-winter and they longed for spring. The ceremonial structure of these customs are full of strength and vitality. The music and dance, both remarkable through their virtuosity and dynamism, and the highly expressive masks worn by almost everyone make up a unique spectacle. It is the masks that tell the most about the imagination and humor of the Romanian villager. Some of them have become genuine jewels of folk art.
Lamp and Money
Another old tradition is that the coming year will be sunny and bear a rich harvest for the families that let a lamp lit on the New Year’s Eve burn until the dawn.
Also on the New Year’s morning, some traditional families toss money into the water where they wash their hands, counting on the fact that this will bring them money during the entire following year. Elderly people claim that their parents and grand-parents would put silver or even gold coins in the water when such coins were in use.
Almost at the midnight of the 31st of December, the peasants foresee the weather in the following year, using large onion peels which the peel off and order by the months of the year. They put some salt on each of them. On the 1st of January, on St. Vasile’s Day, the one able to undo witchcraft and spells shall check the level of the liquid left by the melted salt in each of the onions peels. This is how they will know if there is going to be rain or draught.
Another New Year's Eve custom is the Vergel. This is a mysterious process meant to prospect the future, in which both unmarried young people and their parents take part. The ones practicing the Vergel want to know what the future year holds for them, and most of all if (and whom) they will marry. A series of mirrors helps to determine a girl's marriage in the forthcoming days of the New Year. It is believed that if two mirrors are placed correctly, a young girl will be able to see the face of her future husband in one of the glasses. Another fortune telling game uses a rooster and one pile of corn for each spinster. A girl who is the next to be married will find the rooster circling around her and eating corn frequently from her hand.
Christmas in Romania
On Christmas day, children and grown-ups alike wander around, singing carols. They may come from all over the country, for instance from central and southern Transylvania, Crisana and sometimes from Banat. Traditionally, they perform their carols wearing masks. The mask stands for a god in his zoomorphic instantiation, impersonated by the group leader, who wears the mask while performing the carol.
Quite often, the group’s leader has fun scaring women and children with the mask; at the same time he may ask for his due, the money’s worth he thinks he should receive for the ritual he performed, being offered the most honoured guest’s seat at the group’s ceremonial table. Tradition has it that the heavens open on Christmas night, so that the spirits of the deceased may spend time with their beloved ones who are still on earth.
During Christmas, a series of ritual deeds are performed, meant to purify the space through lighting a fire and putting on the lights; in the olden days, the Christmas log was sacrificed, whereby a fir-tree trunk was cut and burnt in the hearth on the night of December 24th; the ritual symbolises the Divinity’s death and rebirth, impersonating the year to come. This yearly sacrifice is part of an ancient burial ritual which has been replaced by the adorned fir-tree, laden with many gifts brought to children by Santa Claus. This custom became pervasive in the countryside, coming from the urban area, at the beginning of the 19th century, being also attested by the Romans, Serbo-Croatians and the Latvians. Thus, the Christmas tree we know today and the native custom of the blazing of the fir tree overlapped.
On St. Stephen’s Day, practically the first important sequence, that of temporal degradation, closes up with the burial ritual of Christmas, through a death and rebirth parody, organised by groups of young men, following the scenario of a genuine burial. Gathered at the “Folk dance house”, the young men pick up the one who will impersonate Christmas. He is seated on a wooden ladder, being covered, so that he may not be recognised. When the parodied burial ritual ends in humorous verses chanted on the melody of the funeral service, ”the dead” is thrown away, from the ladder onto the ice. That very moment, the reborn Christmas (The New Year) accompanied by young men and merry folk dance melodies, comes to the house where the dance is performed and the Christmas charity dinner is offered.
During the Christmas period until St. Basil’s Day (January 1st ) in Maramures, the magical practice is known as “the tying up of the beast in the forest”, which consists of laying a loaf of ritual bread, named High Steward, on the table, which is then tied with an iron chain. After 8 days, on New Year’s Day, the loaf of bread is cut into slices eaten by children and animals, and the chain is put in front of the stable, so that the cattle may step over it.
I suggest you look up Romanian folk lore and traditions on wikipedia. That has more information, and possibly a useful tidbit I missed. Well, there you have a rough outline of Romanian food and festivities. I hope it helps!
Easter is their other big holiday in Romania, but if I started posting on that subject... let's just say this post is long enough already.
Multumesc (thank you) to my sourses: Fathertimes.net, roconsulboston.com, and of course, wikipedia.org
What an amazing post! 10 points.