THE VILLAGE OF KARÁCSONYFALVA
The name Homoródkarácsonyfalva means “Christmas Village by the Homoród River,” as translated literally from Hungarian. You might assume the early settlers intended to honor the holiday, but in fact the name derives from a surname with a similar sound. The village is indeed by a small stream called the Homoród River. Generally people use an abbreviated name, omitting the river: Karácsonyfalva. The Romanian name is Craciunel.
Karácsonyfalva is located toward the center of Romania, about 100 miles north-northwest of Bucharest, in Harghita County, which has the highest percentage of ethnic Hungarians in the country. The village is nestled in a valley in the scenic foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. Its attractive stucco homes are typical of Eastern Europe. The houses are clustered together on unpaved streets, each with a fence and gate which offer privacy and conceal a yard that contains a large vegetable garden and perhaps a chicken house and a barn for cows, goats, or hogs. Apple and plum orchards and fields of corn, potatoes and hay lie on the outskirts and are reached by horse-drawn carts or tractors.
About 500 people live in Karácsonyfalva, the majority subsistence farmers who raise most of their own food but have little cash. The village has a grocery store, a community center, and a tavern or two. There is also a still where the plums are turned into the traditional drink known as “pálinka.”
The village elementary school offers the first three grades; older children go to school in the next village. Among their subjects is the Romanian language. Many of them study English as well. As there is no playground in Karácsonyfalva, kids find whatever recreation they can, at home or on village streets. This self-sufficiency extends to adult life. In the winter, when agricultural chores are at a minimum, an amateur theater group rehearses plays and performs them at the community center. From spring to fall there are various festivals that attract guests from other parts of Transylvania. Transylvanians maintain strong ties to their place of origin, and they “go home” to their native or ancestral village as often as possible.