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Culture and traditions

Culture House Uricani


In a community, people have similar ways to get dressed, to nurture, and to celebrate events – giving significance to traditions and customs. Thus, in addition to the customs and traditions related to important moments in human life (birth, marriage, death), we propose to bring to your knowledge those specific to the area of Uricani.

Habits depending on the seasons of the year


There is no season awaited more in Jiu Valley like spring. After the long months of winter, people enjoy when the Earth gives the first signs of heating, preparing for the most important holiday of Christianity – Easter.

LA SÂMTI (40 martyrs)
It is celebrated on the 9th of March, being the last of the so-called Days of the Old Woman Winter. It is the moment when the cold season leaves the place for spring. Housewives, at dawn, would come out of the house, without washing their face, cleaning up the yard collecting all the trash and burning them. There is a belief according to which, from this day, all animals wake up to life, among them being those which can cause shortcomings in the household. Because of this, housewives would prepare also a piece of material (cloth, rag) which they would burn in the yard fire, smoking the walls of the house with it, then going round the props of the fence limiting the property. It was thus believed that they could protect themselves from twerps (snakes or other animals). Practicing this ritual was intended to be a guarantee of the annihilation of evil forces. Could it be the symbol of the sacred fire that our ancestors, the Daco-Romans were practicing?


In Uricani also, as in all the villages in the North and the South of the Transylvanian Alps, there was the custom of “crying over the village”.
For example, in the area of Mailat, Uricani, in the evening preceding the Maundy Thursday, a group of lads gathered, who divided in two groups. Some climbed the hill in Borzi, in the North, others passed the Jiu River at the South, and sat in the place called Dealul lui Borc (the Hill of Borc). Each troop procured fire wood. At the appearance of the stars in the sky, they would light the fire. From that moment they began to cry out to the other group specific information about reprehensible facts occurred in the community in a year. What could not be said in daylight was listened to by the villagers at dark, and those who looked like the cat who swallowed the canary were trying to do better. Thus, the community reprehension was the most terrible judge. Unfortunately, today this custom seems to be more and more given to oblivion.

Pastele (from the Hebrew Pesah) in the actual practice of Christianity, including Orthodox, is the biggest holiday, the day of the resurrection of Christ the Savior. This holiday is practiced from the 2nd century A.D. The date is set in the first Sunday after the full moon, after the vernal equinox. The preparations for Easter had always been an occasion of joy for all members of the community who, according to their cultural and economic powers, have tried to maintain at a level as close as possible to the rules that had governed the organization of the utmost celebration. The Easter days were to find spiritual cleanliness and order in the household. In the first day of Easter, kids would replace their parents at the grooming of the cattle, so they can go to church. The adults attended the religious service, after which the sanctification of the meals brought followed, in nicely ornamented pouches. In the morning of the three days of the holy feast, the Resurrection of Christ, there was the tradition that all those of the house, in order of the age, take three tablespoons of Holy Pascha (Prosphora with wine), offered by the oldest in the family. The person who received would worship by saying: "Christ is Risen!", and the one who was serving would answer: "Truly He is Risen!". There was always the habit that the relatives would visit each other these days, being invited to dinner, spending along with the hosts. They would say jokes, would reminisce, and would make plans regarding future agricultural works. In the second day of Easter, the young went to the church, who, after the religious service, attended real contests of egg collision. The winner could praise with his pouch littered with the trophies obtained (broken red eggs). Also, in this day, took place the race called "Running of the prosphora" (prosphora is a small round or cross-like bread, made of yeast dough, of which the communion is prepared and the host is cut at the church). Among the boys, two teams were designated, each consisting of two members: the team that had to eat the prosphora and the team who ran. To win, the runners had to arrive near the opposing team before they could finish eating. Otherwise, those who "feasted" would have won. In the afternoon, in the progadia (the yard of a church used as a graveyard) from Mailat, took place the nedeia (from the Slovanian nedelja - Sunday). Nedeia is a popular party, of pastoral origin, usually on the occasion of a celebration or dedication day. Nedeia would gather people also from the neighboring towns, and even relatives from other areas of the country.

Gherman is the patron saint of animals and insects, who can influence the development of seedlings and the richness of crops. It is celebrated on the 12th of May, after all fields are sown. In this day the fields are not tilled, because the crop will be destroyed by the worms that live in them. Although science has advanced, discovering all sorts of cures that one might resort to for the removal of these pests of agriculture, the local custom tells us that one should act also in accordance with the ancient beliefs.

In the Jiu Valley area, the ancestral tradition of sheep weighting is preserved with pride – so in mid May, in the sheep cot the sheep are milked and the quantity of milk produced is weighted. After milk weighting, the quantity of cheese that will come to each herd owner is determined. If in the sheep herds there are barren sheep and rams, these animals will be moved to a closer mountain, so that they are not mixed with milk-producing sheep. At the event, every living human being of that community is involved – households, children, youths, elders, the Mayor and the priest (who sanctifies the sheep herds and the sheep cots). After the completion of the said process, people dine, which includes green cheese and roast lamb, cheese pies and drink – brandy from the local production.


Popular mythology, certain taboos inherited through ancestral customs, has tried to explain the phenomena that manifest themselves in nature. Such a phenomenon is that of the burguni. They are resembled with evil spirits, which during 1-10 June bring cold and frost which may affect the crops of beans, corn, potatoes, etc. One cannot fight against them. They are the result of a state of mind or come as a punishment for certain reprehensible acts committed by the owner of the respective fields.

On the evening of June 23, the girls were picking, from the gardens or from the meadows, fleabane flowers (daisies), placing them in the cracks of the wood of which the house was built, naming one flower for each family member. The next day (June 24, the Midsummer Day), whose flower in the family was more wilted, it was believed that it is the first who dies. The habit is no longer preserved.

In the third day after the Christian feast of Saint Elijah, on the 23th of July, Saint Phocas is celebrated. One does not work especially in the hay, because "there is danger of fire".

Living in nature, people have tried to understand and to use the resources it put at their disposal with magnanimity. Thus, people have learned and cultivated the respect for the animals living in the wild and which can influence their life in one way or another. The bear, being a noble animal, due to its peculiar behavior compared to other wild animals, has been venerated and esteemed a mischievous character at the same time, which could punish people if they "would upset it". More or less willingly, but surely a product of tradition, the custom of celebration of the Bear Day on the 1st of August was preserved in the mythology of Uricani. If someone works in this day, surely - says the custom of the place – the cattle, the plum orchards will be destroyed (ravished) by the one which was not offered "due respect".


The closest fair to the inhabitants of Uricani (a more stretched and specially designed place in a town/commune, selling and buying cattle, grain, food, vegetables, etc.) was the country fair of Pui, held on the 14th of October. People went there to sell their animals (cattle, sheep, horse) to obtain the financial resources necessary to the household or because they would not or could not keep them during the winter. On that day the householders were leaving "with the lark", along with their cattle, so as to reach as soon as possible at the fair. Those who managed to sell their animals bought themselves clothes, shoes and other products. They would not forget of the "fair chicken" - gingerbread, in various shapes and colors – that children were waiting impatiently for at home. This fair of Pui represented for the householder also the opportunity to demonstrate just how wealthy he is, how powerful in economic terms, in relation to the other members of the community. Before the advent of coal, the animals sold at the fair were the main source of earning for the inhabitants of Uricani.


Pizereu, pitereu or pitarau are just a few names given to those who went caroling on Christmas Eve.
The group of Pitarai consisted of all children "who could walk", until the age of 13-14 years old or even older (young married). The smaller ones came with the grandparents, walking with them hand in hand. Two of the older boys were the bailiffs, wore a bat to defend the group of dogs but also to establish a corridor through which the pitarai to receive the gifts offered by the host. They consist of apples, pears, nuts especially collected from each tree by the householder, with the belief that "giving to the pitarai" will make fruits be wealthier in the next year. Those who did not have fruits would offer ring biscuits, cookies or candy. In the morning of Christmas Eve, before dawn, pitarai in the area gathered at the home of Andrioni (family), who live at the confluence of Jiu and Bulzu creek. After which all gathered, they entered in the yard of the house. The householders would sit ordered at the gate, bearing the pouches. The well-wishers came out then through the corridor created by the bats of the two bailiffs, each receiving the gift that they were carefully placing in the pouches they were wearing. It was great price on the fact every pitarau to receive only once, repeating the gift being considered an evil sign for that household. From here, the procession of pitarai followed a set path shouting all at once: "Pitarai are coming! Pitarai, dear folks!", passing from all households located eastward, then westward, and in the evening they would end the journey at the Staici (family). Each pitarau, though he was tired and frozen by cold, would hurry home, glad to have his pouch filled with the gifts received
The smaller ones – would flee fearing the "bloji" (herdsmen), accompanying the Carolers would catch them. In recent years, however, the cry of the children "Pitarai are coming! Pitarai, dear folks!" is no longer heard– the custom is no longer kept,it stil being preserved in the eastern part of the Jiu Valley-in Petrosani and Petrila.

Once darkness falls, in the evening of Christmas Eve, the Carolers came. Dressed in national costumes specific to the area, they were scouring at the gates of the houses, heralding the Birth of Christ. Typically, these teams were composed of: the Herod (the captain of the Carolers), the Angel (the messenger of the Birth of the Savior), Balthazar, Melchior, Gaspar, the Soldier and the Bloji (the herdsmen). The latter were dressed in sheep coats turned inside out, trimmed with tassels in blue and red, wearing bracelets of bells and bearing"boate" in their hands. They were using them to defend themselves from dogs, but especially they were hit them on the floor, keeping the rhythm of the songs and driving out the evil spirits from households. A figure as rorty for adults, as terrifying to children, was the "Priest", whose clothes were imitating the priestly robes, having also a large iron cross in hand. The Carolers sang carols specific to the local folklore dueling with swords, as well as biblical scenes about the time of Birth of Lord Jesus Christ. The hosts received them in their house, listened to them and then "feasted" with them, each striving to keep up with the expectations in this period. They served ring biscuits, cakes and drinks. The carolers visited in particular households where there were girls, waiting for them with excitement and impatience. Their caroling ended at the church on Christmas day, after the Divine Liturgy. Year after year, new generations of young people take on the Christmas carols that their parents and grandparents used to sing, and with the snowflakes or the terrible frost, they complete the hibernal decoration of the "heavenly evening". This custom manages to gather at one place those who, once, had been part of the groups of Carolers and now work abroad. At Christmas, returning home, they join the younger ones, thereby helping to maintain the ancestral tradition.

Popular mythology suggests the idea that, the New Year's Eve, the heavens open. Then, the ordinary mortals can know the future, using tools that the popular tradition uses to this end. Invarjelatul was a custom practiced in Uricani in the evening of New Year's Eve. The name comes from vergel (virgell – Latin for party). In the evening of New Year's Eve people are trying through "magic" means to know the future of those present using objects hidden under the plates. The neighboring marriageable girls gathered at the house where a grandmother was willing to participate in this game of luck. The ritual involved a few hidden symbol objects under five plates: a comb, a coal, a piece of cheese, a dime, a wedding ring. The girls came out of the room in which the game took place, and the old woman placed the objects under the plates, in an order only she knew. The girls were called in, and each urged to lift one dish. The objects thus discovered had a meaning each. Who found the coal meant that would marry a man with a dark skin color. Cheese symbolized a husband with many sheep, the comb signified a toothy man, with large teeth. The dime under the plate supposed a rich man, and the wedding ring insured the young pretender to marriage, that the lad would be handsome and virgate. The game is repeated three times, because every girl should be advised on the qualities of the predestinated husband. If this magic did not convince all the girls, they could move on to a new trial, which is, counting the props. At 12 o'clock at night, at the confluence of the years, the girls came out, each with a different colored ribbon in hand. Coming close to the fence, they would count 10 props, in descending order, from 10 to 1. The prop that represented number 1 was wrapped with the ribbon the girl had. In the morning, when light came out, each girl was going to see how the prop she marked looked and how will her future husband look like. Such habits show no more interest today.

The traditions and customs presented come to complete the history of the inhabitants of Uricani with visual images described with the help of speech about an archaic world that has managed to maintain a set of social norms, passed down from generation to generation. In Uricani there was and still is a well connected community with social norms laid down on pre-Christian beliefs, which have as permanent goal the preservation and conservation of the ancient practices of the nation, as a way of defining it.

Local Events


Or Nedeia Troitei (from Campu lui Neag), although it is a celebration with song and good cheer, service of remembrance and the memorial service put on this occasion in front of the cross (and the monument itself), is actually a reminiscence of an extremely sad moment from the local history. It is an evocation of the tragedy from more than three decades ago when the tradition of Nedeia in the Sunday of St. Thomas was abruptly discontinued when bulldozers have shaved off the face of the earth not just the beautiful hearth of Walachian settlements and the tombs of the ancestors of the place, but also the culture, religion and history of the villagers. In the olden days of sad remembrance and especially under the weight of the devastation caused by the coal rush, the string of traditions was also discontinued, the feast of Nedeia in the Sunday of St. Thomas taking place no more.
And it may well be irretrievably lost if by the will of God and the endeavor of the locals, householders of the village, with the erection of the Memorial Cross would not have put the shoulder to the revival of the tradition of the Nedeia from Campu lui Neag. Local authorities were concerned and strive every year that the organization of the event to be liked by the people. Artistic programs, performances and recitals of renowned artists of folk song of the mountaineers of Uricani or of the Walachian dance, give joy to the souls, to the locals and to their guests, equally.

Christ has ascended!", is the greeting that is on the lips of Orthodox Christians at the religious feast "Ascension or Jesus" or Ispas. This day was established by the Church as the day of Heroes. In Uricani this holiday has acquired particular importance due to the fact that the Church, in whose yard this event is celebrated, has the dedication day "Ascension of Jesus". Because of this fact, hundreds of locals attended to it every year, who, after the service performed by priests, attend the ceremony of submission of wreaths of flowers and the reverential artistic program prepared by the students of the city schools. The submission of wreaths of flowers at the monument erected to honor the memory of those fallen in the battles to defend the homeland, near the Church. The artistic program prepared and presented by children gives a special meaning to this holiday, each year war veterans from the Second World War taking part as well.

Nedeia of Mount Tulisa
As of 2006, both the locals and the local administration have decided to honor through a villatic celebration the heroes who have fallen in the fight for resistance against the Austro-Hungarians, on Mount Tulisa. The event is intended as a memorial to the hundreds of heroes who have fallen here, which for almost a century, have been forgotten by everyone. Nedeia takes place on the 20th of July, at altitude of 1780 m, at the foothills of Retezat Mountain – in the area of Valea de Brazi (Pine Valley). The locals climb on a 10 km mountain road, hardly accessible from DN66A, at the 8th Well of the mine, to the place where a hundred years ago heavy fighting took place. Here, after the moment of remembrance, usually a performance of folklore music takes place, to which renowned national but also local performers are invited.

Days of the City of Uricani
The second half of the month of August avail, for a few years, to the show and sports lovers in the Jiu Valley, the reunion with the special atmosphere of the "Days of the City of Uricani". For this event (throughout three days, 19, 20, 21 August), local authorities devise cultural and artistic, musical and sports programs for all tastes. Thus, the House of culture of Uricani becomes the "stage: where all children can present own artistic performances with local folk and ethno music formations, or chess and backgammon competitions are held, as well as the awarding of sporting competitions. For lovers of literature the Foyer and meeting room of the City Hall of Uricani hosts book launches with the extraordinary participation of successful Romanian writers. On the outdoor stage beloved rhapsodes and folk ensembles, sustain performances of folk music and dance, as well as rock, pop, dance music. The sports fields of General School No. 2 and of the "Retezat" School Group house competitions of table tennis, tennis, football championship –the teams in the districts of Uricani entering too. In the conclusion of the three-day celebration, the laser show and the fireworks take.