What Gifts to Buy to a Romanian

Occasions to buy gifts

Romanians are very welcoming, occasionally (but not as a primary trait) generous, and they buy many gifts for each other on different occasions. Usually, such events are:

  • birthdays
  • Name days – usually, most Romanians are named after saints, which means they have at least one “name day/ziua numelui” or even more if they have more than one name if their saint is celebrated more than once in a year or for a specific name they have more than one protector saint – though there is one primary name date in each case, when, usually, a gift to be offered is practical and congratulations required.

For example, someone called Ştefan (Steven) has three name days throughout the year: Saint martyr Steven (27th of December), St. Steven the Great (2nd of July), and the new Saint martyr Steven (28th of November). He receives congratulations and/or gifts on any of these three days.

My sister is called Alexandra, and she celebrates “name day” both on the Saints Alexander (30th of August, 29th of May, 10th of June) and on Saint Alexandra (21st of April). People called Ion/John and Ioana/Joanna celebrate their name days on all three holidays, which honor St. John the Baptist. There are also a lot of other saints called “Saint John”, although their holidays aren’t frequently seen as actually “name dates”. People called Cristian or Cristina celebrate their name day on Christmas, Easter, and on St. Christina (24th of July, 13th of March, 18th of May). It is appropriate to congratulate and offer gifts on these occasions only to the Orthodox believers. If a Romanian is an atheist or from another religious confession, you need not congratulate them or offer them gifts on these occasions. The year’s most important holidays are marked with a red cross in the Orthodox calendar.

You may find out when is the name day of someone by looking up the name and its derivatives in the Christian-Orthodox calendar (available from a series of different websites and from most Orthodox churches).

Other opportunities for offering gifts:

  • Christmas;
  • New Year;
  • Orthodox Easter;
  • for women: Christian women’s day (the third Sunday from the Orthodox Easter), 1st of March, 8th of March;
  • For couples: 14th of February (Valentine’s day), 24th of February (Dragobete). Please remember that “Valentine’s Day is not a Romanian or Orthodox holiday. Orthodox people celebrate the actual orthodox saint Valentin (different from the catholic one) on the 24th of October, which is unrelated to couples. Also, some Romanian people frequently discard the meaning of “Valentine’s Day” as a commercial celebration and prefer to celebrate the lovers’ day on Dragobete, which is also not an Orthodox celebration (but a pagan one), but at least it has a centuries-old tradition;
  • marriage – the gift for marriage must be consistent or in cash, usually if you are invited to the wedding.


What gifts to buy

Romanians aren’t pretentious. Usually, a symbolic, creative or unexpected small gift is enough. Sometimes, if you are artistic enough, you don’t even have to spend money on a present. I sometimes offered poetry or a handmade pop-up personalized card as a most welcomed gift for a friend on any occasion. For some women, a cheery e-mail written from the heart and a beautiful flower will do the work.

Something traditional from your country/city which can be offered as a souvenir is also very appreciated. Romanians are crazy about foreign souvenirs, especially from places they’ve never been to.

But this is not always the case. A regular, lovely gift is a specialized book or a book written by one of the favorite authors of the person you are giving the gift to. If you wrote a book yourself, it might also be an excellent gift (I gave a book I wrote as a gift to tens of people) if the person is interested in reading about the topic you’ve written on. A book in the Romanian language usually costs 8-12 euros. A very special Romanian book (such as a dictionary, encyclopedia, a very specialized book, or a treaty) is expected to cost between 20-50 euros.

Other gifts may depend on how well you know the person to make an appropriate gift. For example, if you are not close, it is recommended that you don’t buy something to wear, as it might be too personal. It is also inappropriate to give money instead of a gift (as it says “I don’t know you well enough”), but it might be preferable if you don’t want to risk a lousy present or don’t have time to look for something.

Don’t offer as a gift any kind of disk with music or film (unless they are scarce and appreciated), as the Romanians are used to downloading themselves whatever they need to from the internet.

Also, practical gifts are appreciated, especially if they have some exciting feature or personal/funny message. A teacup, a plate, a teapot, or even a cooking pot can often be top-notch gifts.

It’s not recommended that you buy anything electronic as a gift because Romanians are very picky and versed when choosing any piece of technology – which, in Romania, is pretty cheap. So if you know someone looking to buy something electronic, it’s better to ask how much it costs and give him/her the money to buy it themselves if you want to choose that as a gift.

If the person is a practicing Orthodox (that is, goes to church every Sunday), a very appropriate and often bought gift is a religious book or a religious item (such as a little bottle of holy oil/mir, tămâie, icons). Although, do not buy them the Bible, as any Romanian usually has one in their homes. And if you buy the Bible as a gift to a Romanian, don’t get cheap: buy the synodal edition published in 2001 (the Romanian translation of Septuagint). And don’t buy any religious book which isn’t published with a benediction (almost all the Orthodox books have the mention in the first pages that they are published “cu binecuvântarea I.P.S. […]”).

Usually, it can be appropriate to spend on an individual gift for a Romanian up to 15-25 euros. Anything more is considered a special present, suitable for a close friend or a special occasion. However, buying an expensive gift for a Romanian might hurt your relationship with that person, as it might get wrongfully interpreted.

If – and only if – you are invited to a wedding, the regular sum of money to offer as a wedding gift is either the equivalent sum of the menu or 150-200 euros, whichever is higher. For example, if the menu is 160 euros, an appropriate wedding gift would be 160-200 euros. On the other hand, if the menu is 110 euros, then the lowest gift sum would be 150 euros.

Generally, these are some primary considerations that I can offer from my personal social experience in Romania.

Marcus Victor Grant

Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, 2014-present

6 thoughts on “What Gifts to Buy to a Romanian

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