Crăciun fericit! Merry Christmas! When I was in grade school, the entire school did a Christmas performance. It was very memorable, in part because we sang traditional songs, but also, incorporated Christmas songs that are beautiful, but not heard often (and quite frankly, not heard on the radio). One of these songs was called Christmas in any Language. It’s a song I still enjoy singing during the holiday times. With experiencing Christmas in Moldova, I feel that this song takes on a new and deeper meaning for me.
You’d be forgiven if you don’t remember the lyrics. One part that is sang a few times and, quite possibly, the theme of the song, is the verses: Christmas in any language / Is a joyous celebration. In the past, I wouldn’t have thought much about this song, let alone those verses. But after this year, having spent my first Christmas without family and celebrating in a few different languages, the lines have taken on a whole new meaning.
You might be a little confused. Why, yes, I did celebrate (Catholic/Western) Christmas in Poland with my friend and her family (I wrote about that here). But you see, Moldova celebrates 2 Christmases. And in the villages, where I live, celebrations begin January 7th.
A PC Moldova employee has even said that Moldova has Christmas celebrations from the first Christmas (December 25th), all the way through to their Christmas, January 7th. To a degree, this is true. In Moldova, Christmas is celebrated based on the Orthodox calendar. This holds very much true in the villages, rural, and/or more traditional areas. In the capital, Chisinau, and in other areas, Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. This has become more true in recent history. But despite when people celebrate (or the multiple times people celebrate), some things stay constant: faith, family, and food.
My Christmas Story
This is all very fascinating and I know I could bore you with history, facts, and general knowledge on the subject matter, but what I’m going to focus on is my Christmas adventure and specifically, my celebrations of Christmas on January 6th and 7th.
Christmas Eve was just like any normal Sunday. However, during the day, the local priest from the church came with a Blessed Mary and baby Jesus image. He gave some prayers and blessings to my family.
By the evening, some family had arrived, beginning game time. Many games and activities were played, such as Blokus, jenga, and UNO. We lost track of time and ended up going to bed much past my bed time.
January 7th, Christmas
Waking up early, my host sister and I went to church. It was similar to many Orthodox services I have attended. The major change was what happened at the end. There was a Children’s Choir that sang some beautiful songs (see below for an example) and then Santa (Moș Crăciun) showed up and gave all the children (and others) a Christmas gift of tangerines and some candy.
Although we had arrived to church at 9 am, we did not get out until sometime after 12:30. We made it back home and, essentially, the food was ready to eat. Sometime before we started eating, a few children stopped by and sang us a song. It is customary to give them treat as a thank you and a way to wish them la multi ani.
Joining me in lunch included my host parents, 2 host sisters and their husbands, a host nephew, a host uncle and aunt, and 2 host cousins and finally 2 host cousin’s kids. With all these people, of course we had a lot to eat. We had so much food:
- All kinds of meats, like batute and parjoale
- Many types of salads
- vegetables (mainly peppers)
- so much fruit
- wine, compot, rischiu, and Coke
- And 2 kinds of cakes
With the 2 young kids in tow, the younger ones of the family decided to walk over to the park (located just behind our house) and go sledding. My twin sister (who recently went sledding down Slayter Hill) loves to go sledding much more than me, so I thought of her and how she would have enjoyed our little sledding adventure.
After sledding, a little snowball fight ensued. We weren’t out long, but it was fun!
More Food & Family
After sledding, cake was eaten. One was homemade and delicious and the other, also very good, was store bought and had coconut shavings as the icing.
Many family members left at this point, but shortly after, many more family members arrived. Extended family made the late afternoon enjoyable. Needless to say, I was so filled with food, that I did not need to eat anything until the next morning.
From when I typically celebrate Christmas (December 25th) to January 7th, it was great to get to celebrate with all my host family in some way. I feel very fortunate to have such an amazing host family that integrates me into the Moldovan culture.
If you haven’t yet, check out some additional pictures of my Moldovan Christmas here.
Merry Christmas and Crăciun fericit!