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Culture

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Romanians/G. James Patterson

If language retention is a criterion for maintenance of ethnic identity, the Romanians of the prairies are well on their way towards losing such identity, while those in Quebec and Ontario are holding their own as new immigrants replace those who become assimilated. For example, census data in 1971 and 1981 indicated that about 6 percent of Romanians in Saskatchewan spoke Romanian most often at home; figures were similar for Alberta. Throughout Canada, 19,985 single-response Romanians in 1991 listed Romanian as their mother tongue, while 11,620 cited it as their home language.

For those who use Romanian, oral expression is the most common, although many of those educated in Romania can write it. The language is most often maintained by homeland-born Romanian Canadians. It is used in church ceremonies in the Canadian west about half of the time; in central Canada services are held usually in Romanian but occasionally in English to accommodate spouses or young people who do not speak the language.

Romania is rich in folk and literary traditions. Some folkways were brought by the early immigrants, including remedies for illness, ways to exorcise the devil, and methods to predict the future. Celebrations included New Year, godparenthood, and other ceremonies connected with the church calendar and rites of passage; except for Christmas and Easter, most have declined. Some early immigrants brought Bukovinian peasant costumes, and a few second- and third-generation members still possess such clothing and wear it at festivals. Romanian dishes are prepared in homes and in Romanian clubs, restaurants, and parish halls. Homeland icons take pride of place in churches and homes, as do painted eggs and folk paintings and drawings. Most Romanians who settled in western Canada were from Bukovina and Transylvania; those in Ontario and Quebec, from various parts of Romania. Most found themselves in places with Romanians from different states and did not view any of their own regional differences as significant in the Canadian context.

From the 1910s on, Romanian bands played popular music at church halls and Romanian clubs. Some Ukrainian bands learned Romanian songs for Romanian audiences. In the 1920s a recording of the Yiddish song “Der Freilicher Roumania” evoked a romanticized homeland. Folk dancing and music continued with vitality into the 1940s and 1950s in western Canada and still are performed by several groups. In Regina second-generation Romanian Canadians formed the Eminescu Roumanian Dance Group in 1965, which now has about sixty members, twenty of whom go on tour, and it has performed throughout North America, supervised by Romanian-trained choreographers. Several bands in western and central Canada play at Romanian festivals. Since 1988 a cultural and folklore festival called Romfest has been held biennially across North America; it took place in Hamilton in 1992. Romania evolved from a folk culture to an industrial state in the 1970s and 1980s; hence recent immigrants have brought few folk beliefs and customs with them. Even though Romania’s long tradition of theatre did not accompany immigrants to Canada, in 1993 a troupe of actors from the homeland performed at several locations in Ontario.

Generally, particularly in western Canada, the first generation perpetuated the culture; the second disavowed it in its rush to acculturate; some members of the third worked on ethnic revival; and the fourth has become largely assimilated. Central Canadian communities have been less ethnic-based because of higher levels of education, better knowledge of French and English, and a desire to shed the cultural baggage of a Communist society. Women have tended to perpetuate the Romanian heritage more assiduously than men and have been more involved in the life of the churches, where elements of the culture have survived.

The earliest Romanian newspapers in North America were religious in orientation. The first was Românul (Romanian; Cleveland, 1905–30s), founded by a Uniate priest. The first in Canada was Tribuna Româná (Romanian Tribune; Toronto, 1920s and 1930s). New political refugees in the 1970s have revived the press: Cuvântul Românesc (Romanian Word; Hamilton, Ont., 1976– ) is conservative and has the largest circulation (5,000) of any Romanian-language newspaper outside Romania. Other papers are Observatorul (Observer; Toronto, 1989– ), Luceafárul (The Evening Star; Montreal, 1987– ), and Ecouri Româneşti (Romanian Echoes; Toronto, 1962– 84). Several Romanian-American papers are popular as well. There are Romanian-language radio programs in Toronto, Montreal, and Kitchener, and television shows in Toronto and Montreal.

Romania has fostered a high culture in this century, and a Romanian-Canadian intelligentsia has emerged in church and academe, including professors in Edmonton, Montreal, and Toronto.