There aren’t few people who know that in the heart of Maramures, traditions find a special place, full of magic and warmth, year after year. Christmas, however, in this area so rich in history and culture, has a charm of its own.
Here, every year, people unite under good thoughts and their love for traditions, to celebrate a heartfelt Christmas, in which folklore carries its magic further. Here, the birth of Jesus Christ becomes a real spectacle - the parade of Viflaim - that gathers on the streets hundreds of people dressed up in their best holiday clothes. Before returning to their homes to enjoy the delicious dishes and gifts, the desire to rejoice with friends, acquaintances, and other locals seems to conquer all those who fill the streets with their spirits and lights. According to long-preserved ancestral traditions, carol singers gather in silence in surprise hosts in their sleep, at their windows. And hosts, full of joy, open up their doors to those who make their Christmas even more beautiful, every year. Viflaim presents a folkloric theatre that is almost mystical, setting the scene for the moment when the mags and the shepherds appear, the conflict with the emperor Herod, as well as the appearance of the devils, with very old, pre-Christian inspired masks.
On Christmas days, however, Maramures turns into a spectacle worthy of feasting the eyes, ears, and souls of those present here. Masked participants from all areas, not only from Maramures, gather here to proudly represent the areas they come from. The streets are filled with masks and colorful costumes, joyful songs and witnesses, young and old, who want to see with their own eyes the beauty of this custom. Some masked people come from the heart of Moldova, dancing and singing, to bring the traditions of plugusor, goats and other traditions, proud to share the beauty of their area with an entire country. The masks are preserved and kept with care from their ancestors, full of color, with tassels, with bells and other ornaments full of life and traditions. Others, coming in from other areas, bear bovine inspiration masks like Turca or Boriţa, representing a female prehistoric bull goddess. The zoomorphic mask of the cohort that represents this custom has a head, a body and a foot that supports it to the ground, adorned with colored ribbons, artificial flowers, bells, and a wooden shoe pulled with a string to recreate sounds.
Carolers and masks get intertwined with the crowd of people who come to admire this majestic show, making those present feel that they are part of the heart of the show. They scare children, kidnap beautiful girls for a few seconds, or pull people up in their hora dance to celebrate together. Masked participants sing and dance, make noises, play, and try to attract the attention of those who are fascinated by them, even for a few seconds.
Maramureş knows some of the most beautiful stories, and every year, during the winter holidays, hosts with its doors open traditions gathered from throughout the country. Here, traditions, customs, and other habits find their place, carry on their charm, preserve the sap from which we come as a people and say to those present that the Romanians never forget the beautiful roots with which they pride in and from which some of the most beautiful stories were born.
Video: Matei Plesa
Edit: Catalin Marchis
Text: Ioana Hurjui