For the most eye-catching festivals, you really have to head for the countryside, where bizarre traditions and rituals have survived modernization.
Religious occasions are taken particular seriously, and Romanians celebrate the saint’s days (after whom many are named) as a birthday. As well as rural revelry, there are some up-to-the-minute cultural events, showcasing drama, film, music and jazz.
Snow Festival: Câmpulung Moldovenesc, late January.
Mărțișor: heralds the beggining of spring. Man present any women they meet with gift, usually a small flower with a red and white string, also called a mărțisor – 1 March
International Women’s Day: sees men again giivng flowers to all the women they interact – 8 March.
As in other Orthodox countries, Easter is a bigger deal than Christmas in Romania. Families paint the shells of hard-boiled eggs, which they crack against each other in a game, the winner being the one whose egg withstands the impact. The eggs are then eaten. There’s a night-long service on Saturday, and many restaurants close for the period, as families stay home and eat lamb and eggs- lots of them.
Rooster Shooting: near Brașov, third Sunday
St George’s Day’s: 22-24 April
A tradition dating back hundreds of years, Sărbătoarea Junilor (Pageant of the Juni) sees the bachelors of Brașov parade in flamboyant armour and on horseback through the city.
Constanța Days: around 21 May.
Gayfest: Bucharest, late May/early June.
Sibiu Jazz Festival: varies.
Romania’s only international feature film festival, Transylvania International Film Festival in Sibiu aims to promote young film-makers and showcase innovative, original and independent new features.
Suceava Days: music, dance and craft fair, late June.
Maramuzical Festival: Maramureș, mid-July.
Medieval Arts Festival: Sighișoara, late July.
Liberty Parade: Vama Veche, late July/ early August
Sfântu Gheorghe Film Festival: Danube Delta, varies.
The George Enescu International Festival, named after Romania’s most famous composer, is held biennially, for two or three weeks at the beginning of September in Bucharest. Orchestras and performers from across Europe play and compete in daily concerts.
Sâmbra Oilor (Welcomimg of the Sheep): Țara Oașului, late September/early October.
National Theatre Festival: Bucharest.
Moș Nicolae (St. Nicholas’s Day) On 6 December parents fill their children’s polished boots with small gifts, and a stick to warn the recipient to behave well throughout the year. On Christmas Eve people go to church and decorate their trees.
Winter Festival: Maramureș, 27 December.