In Romania, Christmas and mid-winter celebrations last from 20th December (Saint Ignatius's Day, when is sacrificed the pig, its meat being used in the Christmas meal) to 7th January (Saint John's Day). This period is very important in Romania, as in all the Christian countries, but not few traditions are much older, prior the Christianization. One of these is Pluguşorul (which literally means "little plough" in Romanian), an ancient agrarian carol, with theatrical elements. Traditionally, in New Year's Eve, or in some regions even in New Year's Day, a band composed of two to twenty boys and men recently married, headed by a vătaf (bailiff), went from house to house to sing good wishes. A plow pulled by oxen, decorated with colored paper, ribbons, flowers, on which was put a fir tree, was a customary presence within this carol.
The recitation of the verses was accompanied by the sound of the clopoţei (little bells) and of the buhai ("ox" - a friction drum consisting of a small wooden barrel with the bottom covered with sheepskin, in the midst of which passes a tuft of hair from ponytail, fixed to the inside, which is pulled with fingers moistened; it produce a low sound, strange and unmusical, reminiscent of the roars of an enraged bull), and the swish of the cart whips. In the more complex scenarios of this tradition are used musical instruments (pipe, bagpipes, drums, cobza, violin), but also piocnitori (crackers) and puşcoace (a toy which imitates a gun barrel, which shoot with tow bullets), which amplify the noisy atmosphere that accompanies the tradition. The carolers were rewarded with apples, nuts, knot-shaped bread or money. In nowadays, especially in urban areas, Pluguşorul has a much simplified form, is sung by children, who use as accompaniment only little bells and sometimes whips, and are rewarded with money.
According to Romulus Vulcănescu, Pluguşorul "is a mythical legend transposed into verse, which exalts the merits of Roman intensive farming of wheat, instead of millet which dominated the cereal culture of the Dacians at the beginning of our era", so this tradition would have originated in the second century AD. In fact, (the emperor) Trajan, named Bădiţa Traian (Bădiţă is a polite term used in rural areas for the big brother or for an older person or of rank higher), is the main character in the text of Pluguşorul, he being the one who plough, sows the wheat and reap the harvest. Anyway, Pluguşorul is dedicated to the renewal of the year, and has no connection with religious cycle of Christmas. Some researchers link this tradition with early spring, when was celebrated, long time ago, the New Year. It is supposed that with the establishment of its date of 1 January, the tradition allegedly migrated in turn.
Below you can see (and hear) two variants of Pluguşorul. The first film is probably since the period between the two world wars and contains several habits, not only Pluguşorul, and the second is a modern version, "arranged" for filming.
About the stamp
The stamp, designed by Mihai Vămăşescu, was issued on November 21, 2014 with the occasion of the Christmas 2014. It reproduces the image of an icon with the birth of Jesus Christ, belonging to Stavropoleos Monastery in Bucharest.
Pluguşorul, o colindă agrară - Creştinortodox.ro
Mitologie română, by Romulus Vulcănescu - The Publishing House of the Academy of Socialist Republic of Romania, 1987
Sender: Marius Vasiliu
Sent from Fălticeni (Suceava / Romania), on 08.12.2014
Photo: Marius Vasiliu