Christmas traditions in Romania: the sacrifice of pigs

Christmas traditions in Romania: the sacrifice of pigs

As everywhere in the world, Christmas is a very important holiday in Romania. People start preparing for it several weeks in advance: they put festive lights in all of the towns, they buy presents for their loved ones, they buy and colorfully decorate the Christmas tree and especially they prepare a lot of festive dishes for the Christmas meal with their family.

Now, in Romania, most of the delicious dishes you will taste as part of a traditional Christmas meal are based on pork meat. And to ensure that they get the best quality meat, a lot of people in Romania eat their own home grown pig. There is a tradition as old as time here that says that ever year before Christmas on December 20, Romanians sacrifice themselves the pig they took care of all year.

Of course, this is not exactly one of the nicest traditions, but this sacrifice in the old days marked the start of winter, a time when the family had to get ready for the low temperatures ahead with adequate food. The meat provided by the pig would have been served by the whole family not only for Christmas, but until spring. That is why people give such high importance to this event.

Almost everyone who owns a house at the countryside also raises a pig or two. The pigs are fed with organic food and often let loose around the courtyard to enjoy some freedom and built muscle mass.

A day before the sacrificial day, the pig is not fed anything, so as to make it easier to clean its intestines which will be used to make various types of sausages. Early in the morning of December 20, the pig is taken out of the shed and the sacrifice is done as quickly as possible either by the owner himself or by the someone more able.

After that, the men will start burning the skin either in the traditional way with burning straw or in the modern way with the use of a gas bottle. When the burned skin has been cleaned off, they can start slicing the flesh, but not before it will be blessed with a cross done across its head.

The men will next carefully slice the entire body and almost each bit will be used to prepare different specialities. The skin of the pig is served raw (please note that it has already been burnt previously) and is called in Romanian “sorici”, while with the head, years, tongue the ladys in the household will prepare “toba”, while the liver, lungs, kidney will go into the “caltabos” sausage and the fat from the back of the pork or “slanina” will be salted and smoked to be served a couple of weeks later.

This may all sound cruel, but it is truly an important occasion when the entire family and neighbours come together to help eachother, rejoice and prepare for the harshest seasons of all: winter.

If the pork specialties mentioned above do not sound appealing, we strongly recommend you to try them. We guarantee you will love each of them, being foods you must try while in Romania. Speaking of the traditional Christmas meal, in the following article, we will tell you what warm dishes Romanians eat on this very special holiday.