Christmastime in Kolozsvár

By staff writer Estrella Azul. Photos Copyright © Estrella Azul.

DECEMBER LITERALLY starts off with a bang in my city of Kolozsvár here in Romania as fireworks light up the night sky on the 1st of December. This day is the country’s national holiday, Unification Day, which celebrates the unification of Transylvania with Romania.

Kolozsvár is Hungarian for Cluj-Napoca (the city’s Romanian name), and Christmas is my favorite holiday. So for this article I chose to use my city’s name in Hungarian, which is much more meaningful to me, since I am Hungarian.

Sparkling in the night

Sparkling in the night

Decorations spring up all around the old city center just before and right after this holiday. This is my cue to start strolling around town to enjoy them. I do my best to find peace—even amid the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers—by taking a moment to appreciate store decorations, taking a break from my errands for a cup of tea, walking through street fairs or simply coming to a halt to admire the huge Christmas trees sparkling in multi-colored lights.

St. Michael's Square decorations and an ingenious Christmas tree in a bookshop

St. Michael's Square decorations and an ingenious Christmas tree in a bookshop

In the central square of the city, Union Square (also known to locals as St. Michael’s Square), there’s a huge open-air ice skating rink with skates for rent. Supposedly this year’s is the largest so far. Some small wooden houses selling souvenirs and the like are also present. A large Christmas tree completes the scene, next to which a stage is usually set up for concerts and other events.

Each year I try to attend my old high school’s Christmas concert (the Reformed High School of Kolozsvár or Kolozsvári Református Kollégium in Hungarian). The concert is held at the Downtown Reformed Church (Farkas Utcai Templom in Hungarian) about a week before Christmas.

Kolozsvar choir

As always for this event the church was packed by hundreds of people - I could barely fit through to take a photo for this article

After much preparation and practice, the choir always surpasses previous performances. A wide variety of works and carols are presented, all due to the efforts of Székely Árpád (the school’s dedicated headmaster for twenty years now), and this year was no different. There are now 1st–4th graders (these little ones were especially adorable!) and 5th–8th graders who perform before the 9th–12th graders, as well as a small choir formed of alumni. The program includes recited poems and handbell ringing.

Music lovers are also entertained by the annual “M ist fur Mozart,” a traditional event in Kolozsvár that takes place with different vocal-symphonic concerts throughout a week.

Throughout the month all sorts of fairs start popping up, such as bookstore fairs, where you can buy different cultural products. My favorite is the Santa’s Village handmade street fair.

I love walking through the old city center’s small streets, where vendors have lovingly displayed their wide range of unique handmade products: jewelry, toys, decoration, accessories, bags and much more at very affordable prices. Made from the most diverse materials, you can tell how the artisans have invested so much of their time and soul into every single object created.

Santa's Village moved to Kolozsvár

Santa's Village moved to Kolozsvár

Along with these beauties you can also find homemade cosmetics and homemade food products—such as a large variety of delicious cheeses and meats—and my favorite: freshly-made Kürtős Kalács.

Kürtős Kalác is a Hungarian pastry originating from Transylvania, also known as Chimney Cake. It’s a sweet bread dough rolled through sugar that caramelizes on top as it’s grilled on a type of rotisserie. It can also be rolled through other delights after the sugar—cinnamon, coconut and ground walnuts being the most common.

My favorite building at Christmastime!

A little glimpse of magic in a concrete jungle – my favorite
building at Christmastime!

December. When my less than perfect city turns into a place of hope and dreams. When it looks more close to magical than during any time of the year. And this is exactly how I like it.


Estrella in the Greek Amphitheatre ruins,
Taormina, Sicily

Estrella Azul is a young emerging writer, passionate about reading, floral art and photography, with an artistic personality and a soulful outlook on life. She is a Hungarian girl living and writing from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the capital of historical region Transylvania. Estrella is our European correspondent, and she dreams of embarking on a round-the-world trip. To read more of her creative writing, her thoughts and daily happenings, visit Life’s a stage – WebBlog©.

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  1. Estrella, this is a wonderful story. I enjoyed learning about Christmas in Kolozsvar! While I was reading I kept saying “wow!” I love the handbell ringing on the video. It was nice to hear as I read.
    Beautiful photos! Love all the lights and festivities.
    Your story made me feel warm and connected to a place a long way from me.

    • I like that Milli decided to include the video into the article and not simply link to it at the end, it gave such nice background music for the readers.
      Thank you for stopping by to read and comment, Terri, it makes me so happy that you’ve enjoyed the article and felt connected to this place so far away from where you live. Love it when that happens! 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing Christmas in your town. The bells were beautiful, as I am sure the church concert was.

    Great article. Love the sparkely lights on the trees!

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Betsy!
      Yes, the concert was so beautiful.
      I haven’t made it last year unfortunately, which is why I made sure to include it in my article and let Milli know ahead of time. Just so I’d kick myself out of the house and go to the concert regardless of what else I needed to do (you know how Christmas preparations are, they take up all our time and energy).

  3. Estrella what a beautiful post! It sounds like your city puts it’s best Christmas garb on for the holidays and turns into a wonderland. Thank you for sharing so may delights that are available at this time! The hand bell ringing was lovely and the pastry sounds delicious! Merry Christmas!

    • Ann, thank you so much!
      The city does turn into a wonderland around this time, and this is when I most like it. Christmas makes anything more magical, doesn’t it?
      It was my pleasure to share it all with you, and am thrilled you all liked reading about Kolozsvár and listening to the handbell ringing.

      I knew you’d like the pastry description part, Ann. It really is delicious, a little bit hard to make though. Or at least for me it is, since I don’t have anywhere to make it – indoors wouldn’t work out too well.

      Oh, and thank you! Hope you also had a Merry Christmas!

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  5. Estrella — Magical, indeed! The photos are just lovely and make me wish I lived in Europe, where the lights on old buildings are just so beautiful, and the open-air markets are amazing. As I’ve said before, the more I read about Romania in your posts, the more I want to visit. 🙂

    • Thanks, Lisa!
      The building I have pictures of in my article has only been renovated this year. I recall Christmastime last year when it was simply a stripped down brick wall – for some reason it looked amazing even like that, lights make anything look more beautiful!
      And as I’ve said before, I hope you will be able to visit one day 🙂

  6. Becky Sain says:

    Lovely my sweet friend. You know what would make this even better? Me walking around experiencing it with you! 🙂

  7. What a beautiful, magical time in your city! I would love to try those chimney pastries. I have never seen anything like them here and you know how much I like to try new foods. 🙂

    My Christmas!!

  8. Lovely post Estrella, you’re right, the city does look magical all made up for Christmas. I love the seasonal markets, and the school concert sounds absolutely enchanting.

    Thank you for this, and Happy New Year.

    • Jo, thank you for your comment, it makes me so happy to see how much people enjoyed my favorite time in and look of the city.

      Happy New Year to you too!

  9. Estrella,
    What a beautiful place! This is the birthplace of my mother who spoke glowingly of it and the beauty she remembered from before the Holocaust. I hope to one day be able to visit and see it for myself.

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