Voices

Since communism’s fall, Christmas in Romania is joyful

In Romania, Christmas is a sacred day — and a reminder of how even communism’s stranglehold cannot outlaw faith in many peoples’ hearts.

As Christmas arrives once again, I have mixed feelings because I have experienced Christmas in several ways: during communism, after communism’s fall, and nowadays.

At Christmastime in 1989, in an outburst of joy and happiness, Romanians — especially young people — went into the streets, tore down communist emblems and flags, and fought and died for their freedom. Freedom was the Christmas gift for which the Romanian people had been waiting for 45 years under communism.

In Romania, Christmas is a sacred day — and a reminder of how even communism’s stranglehold cannot outlaw faith in many peoples’ hearts.
Aurora Popp (right) with Sabina, a resident of a group home for young people with disabilities in Cluj, Romania. (©2012 photo courtesy of San Carlos Trinity Presbyterian Church)

During the communist regime (1945 to 1989), Christmas was forbidden as a public celebration; there was no Christmas holiday, as all days related to Christmas were working days. In fact, it was forbidden even to wish Christmas greetings such as “Happy Christmas.” Santa Claus was also denied and replaced with a communist public celebration of Father Frost, who would bring gifts to the good children. This celebration moved to December 30th or 31st, linking the celebration more with New Year’s.

The children could go caroling as long as they did not speak about the birth of Jesus and the songs we sang mostly praised communist leaders. As a child in school, I experienced this type of Christmas celebration as communist teaching replaced the truth of God’s Word.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders …—Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

But at home I learned from my parents the true meaning of Christmas related to the birth of Jesus Christ. They read me the Bible story — but this truth had to be closed up within the four walls of our single room, which I shared with my parents and brother. Under communism, multiple families lived in a house, with each family assigned one room. Our parents told us not to share the good news with other children because it was very dangerous to speak about Jesus.

In Romania, Christmas is a sacred day — and a reminder of how even communism’s stranglehold cannot outlaw faith in many peoples’ hearts.
Aurora accompanies a group from San Carlos Trinity Presbyterian Church on a trek children take to school in Baisoara. (©2012 photo courtesy of San Carlos Trinity Presbyterian Church)

Only later did I understand that during communism rule you could go to prison for proclaiming your faith in public. And many Christians did end up in prisons.

Today, this is the past, and I live Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ living in my heart. He is my “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” — alive and so real. I cannot imagine my life without his presence. Christmas is a time filled with peace and joy, prayers and singing, lights of the Christmas tree and candles.

 

Aurora Popp is a World Vision country program manager in Romania, ensuring that donor funds are used in the most effective way to benefit children and their families. She recently celebrated 20 years with World Vision.

Christian Faith

View All Stories
More than 2,500 people, largely from the Northern Triangle of Central America, have tried to create a semblance of shelter in a city park in Matamoros, Mexico, near the U.S. border. Children and families have fled their homes, mostly due to violence and insecurity. Some have been here since July 2019, waiting for asylum hearings and hopes of a new life in the United States. A local pastor has been ministering to the camp residents and distributing World Vision supplies, including tents, tarps, blankets, hygiene kits, diapers, food kits, and more.
From the Field

2021 life frames: Storytelling from World Vision photographers

A girl peers through a curtain in her home in Uganda.
Voices

Hearing and using the inside voice

Eastern Europe

View All Stories
One-year-old Beto — now the picture of health — lights up when his mother, Ndahambelela, holds her face close to his.
Prayers

Matthew 25: Prayer for children’s health

World Vision is working to limit the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the pandemic’s secondary impacts on vulnerable children and their families worldwide.
From the Field

What is the coronavirus? Facts, symptoms, and how to help