Occasions to buy gifts
Romanians are very welcoming, occasionally (but not as a main trait) generous and they buy lots of gifts to each other on different occasions. Usual such occasions are:
– name days – usually, most of the 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 certain name they have more than one protector saint – though there is one main name date in each case, when, usually, a gift to be offered is practical and congratulations required . For example, my name is Ştefan (Steven) and I have 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). I receive 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 in all of the 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. Cristina (24th of July). 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 most important holidays of the year are marked with a red cross in the Orthodox calendar.
You can 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).
– New Year
– 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 and that’s not related in any manner 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 and 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 a 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, nice 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 in interested in reading on the topic you’ve written on. A book in the Romanian language usually costs 4-8 euros. A very special Romanian book (such as a dictionary, encyclopedia, a very specialized book or a treaty) is to be expected to cost between 15-50 euros.
Other gifts may depend on how well do you know the person to make an appropriate gift. It is recommended if you are not really close, that you don’t buy something to wear, as it might be too personal. It is also inappropriate to give money in stead 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 bad present or don’t have time to look for something.
Don’t offer as a gift any kind of disks with music or film (unless they are really rare and appreciated), as the Romanians are used to downloading themselves whatever they need to from the internet.
Also, practical gifts are very appreciated, especially if they have some interesting feature or some personal/funny message. Something like a teacup, a plate, a tea pot 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. If you know someone is looking to buy something electronic, it’s better that you 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 an Orthodox practicant (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 do 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 10-15 euros. Anything more is considered a special present, appropriate for a close friend or a very special occasion. If you buy an expensive gift for a Romanian, it might actually 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 100-150 euros, whichever is higher. For example, if the menu is 120 euros, then an appropriate wedding gift would be 120-150 euros. If the menu is 70 euros, then the lowest gift sum would be 100 euros.
Generally, these are some basic consideration which I can offer from my personal social experience in Romania.