Romania – home to one of the most famous legends of all time…Dracula. With such spooky tales and macabre folk stories surrounding its landscape and embellishing its history, it was quite a shock to discover that “Halloween” does not exist in Romania. You would think it was the perfect place to go mad with halloween celebrations and really embrace all that is scary – but it simply isn’t part of the tradition here.
Walking through the high streets of England during the Halloween period is very interesting. Everything you can possibly imagine has been adapted to have a spooky theme in order to cash in on this popular, and seemingly very western, celebration. From fake cobwebs in windows, to cakes with black bat icing – it is hard to miss references to Halloween everywhere you look.
In Romania, it is very different. October 31st is just an ordinary day – no decorations, no trick or treaters, no carved pumpkins or costume parties. This seemed so odd to me having grown up in the UK; where Halloween is slowly becoming just as big of a deal as it is in America.
Although there is not a Halloween celebration, on 1st-2nd November in Romania, ‘The day of the dead’ is celebrated. People gather in cemeteries, with flowers, candles and gifts, to appreciate the lost people in their lives and to share memories with family and friends. This is quite a big occasion for Romanian people, and in the days leading up to the day of the dead, family members will attend to the graves of their relatives – making the areas look really beautiful in preparation for the day itself. It is a much more meaningful celebration in a lot of ways than our typical Halloween and it is refreshing to experience a place that is still mostly untouched by a lot of ‘western’ and commercial ideas.
“We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things.” – Bram Stoker’s Dracula
A common scene in an English supermarket is someone smelling a bottle of fabric conditioner to check whether they like the scent or not. In supermarkets here, it is just as common to walk down the household toiletries aisle and find someone holding up a 12 pack of quilted toilet rolls and doing the same. Of course, this seemed very odd on first impressions. I had not really come across scented toilet paper very often in England, so finding it all over the shop shelves here came as a bit of a surprise. There aren’t just simple scents like ‘Lavender’ either – there are all kinds of scents! Some I’ve come across so far include, apple, peach, strawberry, orange, grapefruit, coconut and the more ominous sounding ‘bathroom odour’. I can see how this idea might give your bathroom a nice fresh and fruity scent, but other than that – scented toilet paper seems a little bit pointless in my opinion! I still can’t help but smile when I see people sniffing loo rolls in the middle of the shop though.
- You Will Never Look At Toilet Paper The Same Way! (q104.cbslocal.com)
- What Your Toilet Paper Style Says About You (mashable.com)
It’s an unfortunate truth that some people, on hearing the word ‘Romania’, automatically associate it with the word ‘gypsies’. It is a stigma that I know really grates on many Romanian people. A lot of the people and families I’ve got to know here, have very strong feelings about the issue of the Roma (Romani or Rom) community, and their consequent negative reflection on Romania as a Nation.
Roma people are widely spread across much of Eastern and Southern Europe as well as other parts of the world – their origin traces back to India and they first settled across Europe during the 1400s. They are of a completely different and unrelated ethnic group to Romanians and they should not be confused with each other – but more often than not, they are. It seems that due to their unfortunate likeness in spelling, Romanian people and Romani people have been thoughtlessly tied together until the end of time. A surprising fact is that the U.S.A and Spain actually have more Roma settlers than Romania does – yet these countries aren’t as strongly associated with Roma as Romania is.
This negative association between the country and Roma community has caused many bad feelings to arise. Most Romanians extremely dislike the Roma and think that the government should do more to tackle the issues surrounding them.
Romanians want the world to know that they are not part of the Roma community. So much so, that in recent years I.D cards were changed here so that the Nationality code did not read ROM (short for Romanian) it was changed to ROU – due to the fact that Rom is a frequently used term for people of the Roma community. People here were furious that their I.D cards and Passports literally labelled them under this local term for Roma people.
There are many Roma people here, it’s true – and with that comes an entire set of issues and opinions that could fill an entire blog. However, I think it’s about time that Romania stops being ‘pigeon holed’ as a nation full of ‘gypsies’ in this way. It is very detrimental to the country’s image, development and to the Romanian people who are just like you and me.
Equally, the Romani people themselves are subjected to a lot of negative stereotypes, which is just as unfair. The Romani culture is vast and somewhat misunderstood due to the lifestyle and actions of just a portion of the Roma community.
- Homeless Roma Gypsies Urged to Leave London (novinite.com)
- Stereotypes of Roma and Sinti (centralandeasteuropeanmigrants.wordpress.com)
- A Gypsy Experience (myculturehub.wordpress.com)
- Help us deal with Roma travellers, London council begs Romania (telegraph.co.uk)