Craciun fericit! Romania has many different cultural influences, so traditions vary across the country. The most widespread tradition, however, involves caroling. These songs include traditional texts, dances, and images. While carolers sing, children carry stars that they have cut out of cardboard and decorated with Bible scenes. Friends and family often bring instruments as they carol together, and the people at the houses usually give food to the carolers, or sometimes if they're lucky, money. The carolers move from house to house all night until the sun comes up on Christmas morning.
Mos Craciun, or Old Man Christmas, brings gifts, but gifts are given and opened on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. Out in the villages, gifts usually are simple, like fruit, nuts, and pastries. Although Christmas is celebrated on December 25 in Romania, sometimes Christmas is compounded with New Years Eve, as it is in the neighboring country, Moldova.
Food is a large part of the holiday, and the women in the family often end up cooking for three days prior to Christmas. Teo Aemilius says about cozonac, a traditional cheese bread, "Cozonac is Romanian Christmas bread. The smell of this delicious bread baking means it is Christmastime in Romania - time for merriment and lots of good food. It means it's time for singing Romanian Christmas songs, for laughing, and for eating cozonac with apples or sweetened cottage cheese, yeast doughnuts with lemon curd filling, and other lovely Old World-style foods, such as fresh sarmale (cabbage rolls), mititea (sausage), and pickled cucumbers. It means Mosu Craciun is about to arrive. It means that soon there will be toys for the youngest children and stockings filled with fruit, nuts, cookies, and maybe some new mittens and socks. Ah, the sweet smell of Cozonac baking!"
- 1 cup milk, heated
- 1 fresh yeast cake (or 1 yeast packet)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 4 cups flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 3 eggs, beaten lightly
- 3-4 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
- 1 cup cream cheese, softened
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla or lemon flavoring
Punch down and knead again for 2 minutes. Let rise again. Place dough on an oiled work surface and roll out until it is a sheet about a finger's width thick. Spread Cheese Filling uniformly over the top, then roll dough up like a jelly roll. Grease a bread pan, place the roll inside, and allow it to rise to the top of the pan. Brush with a beaten egg and then bake at 350 until done. After 45 minutes, check for doneness. Makes 1 loaf.
Cheese Filling: Using a fork, mash and blend the cream cheese. Add cornstarch and egg yolks and mix well. Add sour cream, 1â€“2 tablespoons at a time. Work quickly and mix thoroughly. Add sugar and flavoring. Spread over the dough
Recipes and experiences excerpted from Worldwide Christmas Cookbook by Deanna Buxton. Copyright 2009, Covenant.