“Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring tingle tingling too” where can you find the magical winter weather and a lovely sleigh ride together for two? How about in the fairy-tale lands of Marginimea Sibiu?
Unlike any other region in the world, this picturesque landscape is the one that every holiday postcard is featuring without saying it. So where is this enchanted location, you ask?
It is on the southern border of the mystical hills ofTransylvania, comprised of a string of 18 villages (Borta, Sadu, Rau Sadului,Talmaciu, Talmacel, Rasinari, Poplaca, Gura Raului, Orlat, Fantanele, Sibiel,Vale, Saliste, Gales, Tilisca, Rod, Poiana Sibiu, Jina) which make up what is called Marginimea Sibiu. Why is this the winter wonderland you’ve long been searching for in Romania? Because of the 100% authentic local traditions of the region which transport you out of the world of frantic holiday frenzy and take you back to the true meaning of Christmas. It is in these villages, through the timeless traditions practiced here, that you can connect to the deeper meaning of the Christmas spirit, which your heart has so much been longing for.
The typical peasant atmosphere and hospitality of the villagers remind all who visit of the importance of community and connection this season. You won’t want to miss the traditions in Marginimea Sibiu onChristmas, and at the end of this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about getting there, where to stay and when to go. Everything in Marginimea is truly authentic, unplanned, and spontaneous so if you want to catch the local shepherds and peasants in action keep reading.
The Junes on Christmas:
The Junes are the most important Christmas tradition in this region and incorporate almost all other Christmas customs into one.This is where unmarried young groups of shepherd men dress up in Traditional costumes and engage in various carolling traditions throughout their respective villages on Christmas day. But it doesn’t start or end there. Preparations for this tradition begin on December 6th (St. Nicholas Day a well-celebrated saint feast day in Romania) when the young men begin their rehearsals. Each group has a leader and usually, the leader learns the carols and traditions from his father or grandfather. They will sing separate carols for the priest, mayor and young girls to be married. This tradition must stay alive as more young men are leaving the village. This is an important custom because it allows the boys to display their talents uniquely and to be celebrated for the hard work they do throughout the year. This is their moment, a moment where through their songs they unite the community together and also help new visitors, disconnect from the daily stresses of the modern world to a simpler and heartfelt way of life. People can watch them in Gura Raului on December 26th . After their religious mass, at around 12 pm they come out in front of the Orthodox church, right in the main square and perform a traditional Junes dance. After that they go to visit, dance and sing through the village. Observing their carols and dances is a breath of fresh air and comes with a true taste of cool crisp mountain air and above all the freedom of a simpler life in Marginimea.
Meeting of the Junes in Saliste on December 28:
The story of the Junes is not finished here. The biggest meeting of the Junes takes place on December 28 in the town of Saliste, which is considered the spiritual centre of Marginimea Sibiu. This tradition dates to 1895 and what is significant about it, is that it unites all the different groups of Junes from each village in one place. So, if you were hoping to catch all the Junes on Christmas and couldn’t make it to each village(which would rightfully so be very difficult) you can still see them here.Perhaps in seeing this union you can spot the subtle differences between theJunes of each village, showing how despite being from the same region each village has its own unique charm. At this event, there will carolling, singing ,and dancing and if you stay until the end, the whole community will join in dancing “Hora Unirii”. It is an experience unlike any other full of magic, laughter, and cheer.
The Burial of the Years
As all great things come in threes, the final tradition that the boys engage in is the Burial of the Years which is performed on NewYear's Day. This rite of passage involves the boys going to the centre of the irrespective villages and burning fire, rags, straws or whatever they find symbolic to represent the “burial of the past year” and to welcome the new year that is to come. In Saliste, they also burn a coffin and the flames of the fire represent the transformation that is to come. Such a ritual shows the deep symbolism embedded within the hearts of this region and it is an attraction that tourists love to witness.