Traditions and Customs – Traditional Masks



The trade of masks is an occupation which was, is and has to be continued. Learning and practicing this trade can be a reason to be proud and respected due to continuing the traditions, the customs and the traditional rites for holidays.


Brief history


The masks are a topic for collective Sociology and Psychology, for cultural History and Philosophy. Meant for entertaining some prosperous social classes, disguising and popular masks, bearing less and less significations, stayed as a kind of archeological witnesses of the long forgotten mentalities. Some of the most interesting traces, due to their variety and expressivity, are in Romania, spread all over its historical parts: Moldavia, Transilvania, Oltenia, Muntenia, Dobrogea.


tradmasc01Characters from Romanian mythology and folklore are presented in this fantastic world  what breaks loose with the strength of a rite at certain dates during a year, in the middle of winter an Christmas and New Year, around the summer solstice, on Whitsuntide, or due to some memorable events of the man and his collectivity, such as wedding or death.

In Neamt area, the winter customs have been kept unaltered until our days. Between December 25th and January 7th, every year, on the village’s paths, there is a special atmosphere of great Christian holiday (Jesus’ Birth) and coming of the New Year. Within this period there are a lot of customs and beliefs which mark crossing the two years, welcoming the New Year being accompanied by some rites sometimes inherited from the heathenism. In the last category there can be included the carnival of the masks. Nowadays, these games with masks are just a reason to entertain the people, of joy in special holidays, without knowing exactly the significance of these customs and masks.


tradmasc02The masks in Neamt area have an amazing diversity of shapes, creating through their effect a fantastic world, of a certain picturesque, in which, due to the masks, both anthropomorphous (old man, old lady, bear leader, Jew, etc), and zoomorphic (he-goat, she-goat, ram, bear, etc), there is some position taken against the bad things met in that community: malice, avarice, laziness, drunkenness, etc, the masks offering the possibility to say truths frankly, which, otherwise, could not be said.

The talent that is used to make the masks in Neamt area justify the existence of a real trade what involves special qualities for the one who practices it: imagination, talent, skillfulness and a great sense of humour.


The mask creators in Neamt area have proven to be good experts of the customs and the traditions of the place, succeeding, through their masks, in completing the atmosphere specific to winter holidays. Knowing and researching the trade of making masks means entering the spirituality of the traditional Romanian village, keeping in mind the symbolism of other times of these pieces, related to certain rites, today simple props and amusing objects in winter holidays in Neamt area.


Materials and working techniques


The masks in Neamt area are made from various materials, such as: animal skin and fur, linen texture or thick cloth, carved wood, lime tree bark, birch tree bark, fire tree bark. Pieces of metal can also be found in their composition, having various shapes of blocks or circles, coloured thick rope, bird feathers, hemp tow, horse or pig hair, coloured cardboard, beads, buttons, pieces of glass, beans, animal horns, mirrors, etc. there can be also used some objects which used to be useful: bottoms of barrels, wooden pail stoves.


Masks at home

Nicolae Popa Târpeşti If we talk about the mentioned villages: Pipirig, Timişeşti, Vânători, Boboieşti, Lunca, Târpeşti, Ghindăoani, Brusturi, there can be envisaged that there are mask creators, well known all over the country and not only, only in two of these villages

Therefore, in Tarpesti, the popular creator Nicolae Popa keeps making, although being 90, together with his wife, Elena, varied masks (devil, lady, old man, old lady, drunkard, greedy), proving, each time, a rich imagination, talent and extraordinary skillfulness in suggesting human flaws.



albu_ionIn Timisesti, Ion Albu has been practicing this trade since he was 14, trade which was apprehended from his uncle, 61 years ago. Ion Albu’s masks (old man, old lady, gipsy, drunkard), as well as the mascots (bears, she-goats) prove the ingenuity of this creator, a strong sense of humour, against all the negative aspects from the village area, trying this way to have a critical attitude with the help of the artistic expression of his masks.


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