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[Enjoy Transylvania!] Cultural Development of Maramureș Region

Maramures County Council has a rich experience in the promotion of culture and traditions through local and international events, projects and exchanges of good practices, in cooperation with its subordinated cultural institutions: County Museum of Ethnography and Popular Art Maramures, that has also an open air village section, County Center for Conservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture Maramures, Popular Art School ”Gheorghe Borlan” from Baia Mare, National Folk Ensemble Transylvania, County Museum of History and Archaeology, Art Museum “Baia Mare Artistic Center”, County Library Vasile Dulfu, County Mineralogy Museum Victor Gorduza and Astronomical Complex Baia Mare. Maramures County Council is coordinating the above-mentioned cultural institutions in terms of budget allocations, activities, plans and supports them to develop in partnership projects financed by European Funds.

Maramures County Council is also strongly involved in promoting its culture and traditions at international level, actively participating in international tourism fairs and festivals, periodic events organized by the twinned regions (from Hungary, Ukraine, Lithuania and The Netherlands) and encouraging the cultural cross-border cooperation through joint cultural events of the Ukrainian minorities from Maramures and the Romanian minorities in Ukraine.

“Transylvania” National Folklore Ensemble 60 years of excellence

Established in 1959 under the name of the ensemble of songs and dances “Maramureș”, the “Transylvania” National Folklore Ensemble has developed today in the spirit of valorizing the authentic national folklore. Along the time, there was a need to include a larger region of creation, covering the whole area of Transylvania and the entire Romanian folk repertoire. For this reason, in 1991, the ensemble of songs and dances “Maramures” changed its name to the “Transylvania” National Folklore Ensemble.

His tournaments over the years, both in the country and abroad, have meant many resounding successes. Representations held in Bulgaria, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Germany, Poland, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica, China, Korea, Mongolia are remarkable for this ensemble. In 2015 the dancers of the “Transylvania” National Folklore Ensemble participated in the 14 performances of the famous violinist and conductor Andre Rieu, held in Bucharest and Maastricht, the Netherlands, being crowned with a resounding success.

With a repertoire of 25 choreographic suites, the “Transylvania” National Folklore Ensemble has confirmed its value by conquering numerous awards: at the World Folk Dance Festival – Palma de Mallorca 1993 – 2nd prize for the authenticity of the costumes, in 2003 – and in 2005 – World II prize; The Golden Medal at the Belgrade Peace Festival in 1995;

In 2007, they won the first prize at the International Folklore Festival in Agrigento, Italy, and in 2008 the 3rd Prize at the Istanbul International Culture and Art Festival and the Silver Medal conquered in South Korea at the Cheonan 2008 World Dance Festival. The most recent and most valuable award of the “Transylvania” National Folklore Ensemble is the Grand Prize – “The Golden Temple” at the 59th edition of the International Folklore Festival – Agrigento Italia 2014.

Today the “Transylvania” National Folklore Ensemble is under the tutelage of the Maramureş County Council and consists of: orchestra coordinated by the conductor Eduard Albina, the ballet body under the supervision of choreographer Emil Miheţ, vocal soloists and instrumental artists. Undoubtedly, the “Transylvania” National Folklore Ensemble is a true exponent of the Maramureș musical and choreographic folklore, and not only, being one of the most convincing promoters of the traditional Romanian culture and an exceptional ambassador of the Romanian people.

Major cultural events in Maramureș

Maramures County Council develops two major annual events linked with Traditional and Popular Culture, involving also international partners (representative of ambassadors, twinned regions, minorities from cross-border area, other international guests etc.):

”Days of Maramures”

represents the celebration of our county, taking place in the month of May (the fourth edition, in 2018), through exhibitions, debates, traditional fairs and workshops, popular festivals, ethno parades, etc. The events manage to gather each year local communities of Maramures County, representatives of international communities and important cultural, economic and political personalities from local, regional, national and international level, deeply involved over time in the development and promotion of Maramures County. Representatives of twinned regions from Hungary, Lithuania and Ukraine, are participating in each edition, strengthening the cultural exchange between EU countries. During a week, many events are organized all over the county under the auspices of the “Days of Maramures”, in Baia Mare and other areas of Maramures. “Days of Maramures” 2018 started with the parade of popular costumes and the International Folklore Festival of the Youths. The cultural events also included: photo exhibition “Spring customs”, international symposium of ceramic, international crafts workshop, scientific symposiums, astronomic observations, the round table “important photographs from Transylvania”, ”Maramures Film Festival”, “Festival of the Free Dacian”, the Conference “100 years of the Great Union. 100 personalities of Maramures that made history”.

The popular traditions and customs of Maramures are also promoted each year. In 2018, very successful events have been: the first edition of “Good of Maramures” Fair, the Fair of the young craftsmen and other thematic workshops. The “Career Planner” Fair is organised during each edition of “Days of Maramures”, gathering the young people that have the opportunity to find educational offers adapted to the labour market requests. The local development has been promoted in 2018, through the public debate “Invest in Maramures” focused on entrepreneurship and business opportunities in Maramures. In order to enhance the European cooperation, during “Day of Maramures” 2018, Maramures County Council has organized an event dedicated to the “The Day of Good Neighbourhood” and with this occasion a twinning agreement between Maramures County and Trancarpathia Region (Ukraine) was signed.

“Christmas in Maramures”

has become one of the major and representative events of Romania through which Maramures County defines itself as a special space for the preservation of cultural traditions and customs, having a real historical value and a major impact in the socio-economic environment of the region.

„Christmas in Maramures” is a corollary moment when at the end of the year the traditions and customs from all the “countries” from which the Maramureş County is composed are combined.

The event, which has grown impressively from one year to the other and has already become a tradition, reaches this year its 10th edition. “Christmas in Maramures” attracts as a magnet the tourists who visit Maramureş for the opportunity of discovering local live and tangible traditions and customs brought under a single “umbrella”, in a perfectly integrated archaic space, the Village Museum in Baia Mare, Maramures.

“Christmas in Maramureş” managed over nine years to give the opportunity for tourists, visitors and the community to take direct contact and actively engage in traditional and authentic activities, from the much expected live “pig sacrifice” in a pure local style, in preparing traditional meals for Christmas dinner, carols concerts with local artists, but also world-class interpreters as Ştefan Hrușcă, traditional festivals, scientific round tables on subjects, exhibitions, plays, folk art fairs and many other actions organized by Mayoralties partners, museums, monasteries.

The impact on the socio-economic environment is beneficial and produces prosperity for both the community and the local businesses, tourism and related fields with a clear increase in the number of tourists visiting Maramureş County.

The mission is to revive and promote, preserve and boost local folk traditions, elements of cultural or natural heritage and bring out and show to the worldwide visitors the richness and realness of folklore, habits and traditional way of life of the people living in the geographical center of Europe and Romania during Christmas time.

“Christmas in Maramureş” also promotes sustainable and traditional ecotourism and nature tourism through local outstanding people sustained by the communities in which they live and providing respect to the natural heritage and local population.

“Christmas in Maramureş” inspired during its nine editions people from all over the county and region to revive, join the event and be proud of their roots, traditions and winter habits. The event also succeeded to reach a level of high involvement of diverse tourism stakeholders from local people living in farms to major hotel industry owners.

Vision and objectives

“Christmas în Maramureș” was at the beginning in 2008, a small folk event held for one day in the section Village Museum of the Etnography and Popular Art Museum Maramures, Baia Mare, but year after year has been developed into a major tourism and cultural attraction with wide implications in the community and economic life of the Maramureș County for a whole month.

The purpose is also to protect the traditional and authentic heritage composed of local folk ancient customs from the communities that live in remote areas of Maramureș County and to preserve endangered intellectual folk culture still alive through elders, revive and preserve winter ancient customs like “Plugușorul”, “Sorcova”, “Viflaimul”, “Căprița”.

It is an unexpected opportunity of learning about the differences between peoples and cultures and our diversity in celebrating Christmas in ancient ways. Places in which every visitor may observe the social and cultural traditions and customs of all communities, including those of Hungarian or Ukrainian minorities and to recognize their worth.

This event offers big carols concerts with locals and world recognized artists and public, access to eight wooden churches included in UNESCO heritage of mankind and other privately-owned cultural property and monuments during Christmas time.

Main characteristics

Visitors are experiencing at almost every step the real countryside habits, traditions and real archaic way of life and culture as it is lived every day during the month of December, not just cultural shows specifically developed for visitors but also feelings and genuine experiences.

The event now unfolded during almost a month offers many recreational and educational opportunities, like the festival of traditions and winter customs “Marmația” held on the second day of Christmas where you can meet the local people dressed up in ancient costumes and masks, singing carols, dancing and offering local goods to tourists.

The event involves the tourists and shows the essence of the traditional and authentic Christmas activities, from living for minutes or hours in wooden houses, singing carols, participating to the preparing of the dishes for Christmas meals, playing and dancing with the local bands or sewing and weaving with the elders in ancient ways.

The tourists who visit the county of Maramureș during the event “Christmas in Maramureș” have a huge opportunity to take an active part of the whole activities, to have a contribution to the events through, for example their costumes or voices, and by this reaching a cultural and spiritual fulfillment. Even by taking part to a concert of carols it allows them, during their travels, to practice their own religion and beliefs related to Christmas.

The visitors are getting a warm and hospitable welcome from the local people gathered in the Village Museum dressed up in folk ancient clothes with a friendly cup of the local drink “palinca” of Maramureș near the fire lighted up and grilling the pork which will become a tasty food for Christmas. Horse riding on the snow in natural places, where in ancient times the well-known outlaws like Pintea Viteazu were living, are other attractions for tourists coming to “Christmas in Maramureș”.

After more than nine editions tourism professionals are in strong and reliable co-operation with our public authority to provide good local services and quality time to the visitors by including the whole cultural and traditional activities promoted under the event “Christmas in Maramureș”.

The local and national media, even the specialized travel media and Facebook trend setters relate and appreciate in their reports the event “Christmas in Maramureș” by offering honest and balanced information and even influencing the flow of tourists every year. We are proud to say that media provides accurate and reliable information to the consumers of tourism services about the activities during “Christmas in Maramureș”, giving us a good feedback year after year.

Innovative features and impact

Have you ever tried to make your own bread and Christmas foods in ancient ways, pots and places, be butcher assistant at the slaughtering of the animal which becomes food and make out the best dishes this region can offer?

Lots of relevant feelings and moments happening maybe once in a lifetime will happen during this event. Christmas in Maramureș is the place where you will see, assist or be part of it.

The event is meant to stimulate competitiveness in the tourism sector, many stakeholders develop and improve their offer to meet the expectations of the visitors during the event period. Support and encourage the people from Maramureș county to take part and be pro-active with tourists.

An increased number of tourists visit Maramureș county in December, year after year, due also to the integrated event “Christmas in Maramureș”, based on the numbers offered by the National Institute of Statistics. The growth of tourists number that visited the County of Maramureș is obvious, from 109,083 în 2013 to 217,028 in 2017, from which foreign tourists are significantly high, from 19,453 in 2013 to 35,403 in 2017.

We also have as partner the Ministry of Tourism from Romania based on a written partnership almost every year, the event being part of the integrated vision and strategy of the Tourism Ministry Plan: „The Carphatian Garden”.

In the event “Christmas in Maramureș” are involved two of the “historical countries” from Maramureș County, Țara Chioarului and Sighetu Marmației, which recently received the EDEN award as destinations of excellence.

Maybe the major and best reached impact is the “happiness-state-of-mind” as being part of the real Christmas happenings and preparations in a part of Europe (Maramureș) where the old nice and calm ways of celebrating are still alive.

(From the special edition of TB 86 – „ENJOY TRANSYLVANIA!” – May/June 2019)

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