The St. Basil wishing – a unique Romanian tradition in the New Year eve
By Valeriu Gonta/ Chisinau/ Moldova.ORG/ -- According to the Iulian Calendar, on January 14, people in the Republic of Moldova celebrate the Saint Basil (Vasile), which is the New Year. It’s an old custom of many Christian Orthodox peoples to mark Christmas, St. Basil/ New Year 14 days later than other Christians.
There are several thousand-year old Romanian tradition passed along from Thracians and Dacians (ancestors of Romanians), which is related to this day. Small bands “plow” in the eve of New Year (later coincided with St. Basil) and “seed” in the following morning.
There are different names for this custom of “plowing”: “Plugusor” (Little Plow), “Plug” (Plow), “Urat” (Wishing), “Uratura de Sfantul Vasile” (St. Basil Wishing), “Buhai” (The Bull). It is a kind of ‘carols’, but a very unique one, usually performed by young men, boy teenagers. The band varies in size with 4-6 members as average, but it could be smaller or larger. The message’s is similar -- wishing health to the hosts and a good harvest for the following year – but the interpretation vary from short (performed by small boys) and long (and interesting), usually performed by young men. Watch video below.
In the best case scenario, the members of the bands are dressed in the traditional Romanian national costumes. Lately this dress code has been abandoned, but still it is kept in some parts of northern Romania where customs have been better preserved. When it gets dark outside, bands go from house to house with their “Plow”. They visit houses of band members’ relatives and neighbors. They hold in their hands bells and whips, along with an instrument called “buhai” (bull in English), called so due to the sound it makes. This instrument is made from a small wooden barrel without bottoms. Then, one bottom is made out of sheep or goat skin that is stretched tight. In the center of the sheep skin bottom, it is passed horse hair that when it’s pulled with wet hands it makes a specific sound that sounds like a bull.
The band, after it performs the wishing, is rewarded by the hosts of the house with money, nuts, candies and one "colac," which is knot-shaped round bread that is specifically made for this occasion.
The next day it’s the New Year. The same guys, this time along with girls, would go again to those houses where they have been “plowing” previous night, to “seed” the ground.
These traditions of "plowing" in the eve of St. Basil and "seeding" next morning are strictly respected in villages in Romania, Republic of Moldova, parts of Ukraine, Serbia, Bulgaria, where Romanians live and in Macedonia, Greece, Albania where Aromanians live.