Sorcova Casts A Romanian Spell for the New Year
"Sorcova" is an ancient custom in Romania. Thousands of years ago, when the Romans were ruling in Dacia (the ancient name of Romania), children held a small olive branch on the first day of the new year. Later the olive branch was replaced with other blooming tree branches, such as apple. The branches were cut and forced to bloom from St. Andrew's Day on November 30 until the New Year. Eventually, sorcova began to use these forced branches instead of olive branches.
Forcing branches has always been easy. Many trees need cold during winter weather when they go dormant. This will get them ready for blooming and fruiting in the spring. After at least six weeks of cold, the branches can be forced to bloom. Just cut the branches from your tree or shrub and bring them inside the house. The cut ends should be cut again and plunged into warm water; it may be a good idea to also split the cut end two to four inches up to encourage the branch to take up water. Cut the ends under water so the cut end isn't exposed to air again. Change the water every few days and cut the end of the branches each time you change the water. Keep the branches out of direct sunlight. 
The custom of using real tree branches was lost in Romania, especially in the city where the sorcovas began to be crafted from colored paper or plastic, formed like a flowering branch. Naturally, they have become mass-produced merchindise and now everyone can buy a "sorcova" from the seasonal stores that open during the winter holidays. From the handmade branches with different colored flowers, the word "sorcova" has become to mean "something with many colors." For example, we are always saying that someone is dressed like a "sorcova" if their clothing has too many colors.
The word "sorcova" comes from the Bulgarian word "surov" meaning "a budding branch.". Bulgaria is Romania's southern neighbor, so naturally many words and customs were imported from one country to another during the time.
In lore, the branch was a magical stick, and the wishes could come true with the magic words that were said. Children were given the sorcova because their purity and innocence allows the spell to easily come true. Custom states the first entering in someone's house on January 1 with the sorcova must be a little boy in order to bring the best luck for the whole year.
The funny part of this custom is that the child has to move the sorcova towards the people or - better still - touch them, usually on their head or back with the sorcova. Here is a funny example.
The reward nowadays is usually a sum of money, like here:
In the countryside, the custom brings children together as they go through the village with the sorcova When finished with the "spell," they then throw grains of wheat or rice on the hosts. Children receive apples, walnuts or buns from the hosts for their good wishes.
The short poem below was what I sang as a child when I participated in this custom. Here's my translation into English:
May you live, may you get old,
Like an apple tree, like a pear tree,
Like a rose stalk,
Hard as iron, speedy as steel,
Hard as a rock, speedy as an arrow,
See you next year and A Happy New Year!
Other versions of the same song are sung in different regions of our country.
Every year I look forward to seeing many children coming to our home on January 1, with a sorcova to put a "spell" on me and my family! This year I'm sending you all many good wishes and a good luck "spell" for the New Year to come!
Happy New Year, everyone!
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