Romanian Christmas carols are deeply rooted into the soul of a nation who not only created them but also experiences them within its intimate nature, handing them down from generation to generation, mainly through the voices of children. Unlike those of some other peoples, these carols are not family festive songs but a message extended by the members of a Christian group to their own community. Frorn the noun colindă (carol, Latin calenda) the Romanian language created the verb a colinda, that originally only „to go a-carolling”, later also „to scour the country”. Performed especially on Christmas Eve, the carols sound first on the streets, then in front of windows and finally the waits go into houses. Waiting for them, the hosts illuminate their homes, prepare food and gifts as of they hâd to meet some distinguished guests. Together with the children, not only the good news of God’s birth but God himself goes in; He descends from Heaven on a silver ladder, not very often, during Holidays only. Through their innocent voices, children are messengers of a sacred event and, at the same time, theop/iori, that is „God-bearers”, sanctifying those who welcome them.
The carols have an inner universe in which we can depict one of the Romanian nation’s spiritual dimensions: its insight into time and space.
There is a carol of a great literary beauty as well as of a deep philosophic meaning related to the „myth of the eternal return”. It begins like this: „Great’s the night of present night / And it’s not the present night j But the night of Christmas Eve, /Christmas Eve of the o/d times / When the Ho/y Son was born, / Ho/y Son on this good earth.” In other words, today’s feast is not merely the celebration of a historical event, but the repetition of that event, its reactualization within the present time, i.e. experiencing it once again in its original dimensions. The now is immediately denied by invoking the then, but the denial is only apparent; the present reality is not annihilated but, on the contrary, intensified by reinstating the original event, like the Eucharistic mystery in the Eastern Orthodox Liturgy.
The Romanian people is endowed with a strong and gentle feeling towards Nature. The most beautiful ballad of its folklore, Mioriţa, starts from the image of a shepherd who is to meet a violent death somewhere in the solitude of mountains: in the absence of any human being around, natural elements — the sun, the moon, the stars, trees, fog, dew, singing birds — take over and accomplish the funeral rituals, and transfigure death by assimilating it into a cosmic wedding. Christmas carols follow the same pattern. The Holy Mother too gives birth to Jesus in solitude, but Nature’s elements, usually hostile to such a circumstance, suddenly become gentle, huminize themselves: „Rain is warm and bathes Him, / Snow keeps falling, doesn’t touch Him.” There is one difference however: it is not nature that transfigurate the human event but viceversa. The Nativity unites Heaven with the earth, and the late becomes familiar, transparent, accessible, communicating. Bethlehem is somewhere around, over there at the foothill; it can be seen through the window. Unhappy, the Holy Virgin weeps because she is needy and does not have diapers for her Royal Son, but the women of the village share her tears and prepare for an act of participation: „Holy Mother, please don’t weep, / You’ll have diapers a heap / In warm clothes your Son to keep.” The stage of this Romanian Bethlehem is populated not only by angels. shepherds and kings but also by local people running to assimilate such a moment of sublime maternity. The earth becomes Heaven, and its transfiguration also involves its inhabitants partaking of the cosmic mystery of Incarnation.
The carols on this record are part of the Romanian spiritual heritage. They were selected from those collected and harmonized for :horal music by outstanding composers during the past few decades. They express the anonymous genius of a nation which built its history in the feeling of duration on its own land: the duration of everlasting Nativity and a land in diapers with which God himself warmed His holy little feet.
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