Great Union Day or Unification Day is celebrated on December 1st and is Romania’s national holiday. It has been established as the national holiday through law nr. 10 from July 31st, 1990 (Legea nr. 10 1990). Before this, Romania had two distinct dates on which it celebrated its national holiday. During communist time, Romania’s national holiday was on August 23rd, commemorating the date when Romania turned against Germany in World War II and instituted a communist regime. Between 1866-1947, it was May 10th. Prince Carol I was sworn in on May 10th, 1866 and he later declared Romania’s independence on May 10th, 1877.
December 1st marks the unification of Transylvania, Banat, Crisana and Maramures with the Romanian Kingdom in 1918. In the previous months, the Romanian Kingdom had known several expansions, with Bessarabia joining it in March and Bukovina in November (Ziua Veche 2018). Altogether, these events are known as the Great Union of 1918, as they led to the creation of Greater Romania, which existed in the interwar period and encompassed the largest territorial mass ever reached by the Romanian state. The Resolution adopted on December 1st, 1918 states that: “The National Assembly of all Romanians in Transylvania, Banat and the Hungarian Country, gathered by its rightful representatives at Alba-Iulia on the 18th of November/1st of December, decrees the unification of those Romanians and of all the territories inhabited by them with Romania.” (State Archives 1918)
Since Alba Iulia is the place where the National Assembly gathered to finalize the unification, it usually holds a central role in the celebration, together with Bucharest. Military parades are organized in both cities (Ţimonea 2016). The military parade in Bucharest is usually held at the Triumphal Arc, though it was moved in 2014 and 2015 to the Constitution Plaza (Realitatea.net 2016). All public institutions display the flag on this day and, in addition to the national anthem, ‘Deșteaptă-te, române’ (‘Awaken thee, Romanian’), other patriotic songs such as ‘Treceți batalioane române Carpații’ (‘Romanian battalions, cross the Carpathians’) or Noi suntem români (‘We are Romanians’) are sung.
As December 1st has only been the national holiday for 30 years, it does not evoke particularly strong feelings of patriotism. Most of the population can still recall the grand celebrations staged by Ceaușescu on August 23rd which mobilized entire swaths of the country in the artistic program, not just the military. Comparatively, December 1st is more sedate. The history it recalls is further removed from the present-day population. It even evokes a sense of frustration in nationalists who would wish to see the interwar Greater Romania reborn. It doesn’t help that the weather is usually dreary, with winter hanging heavy over the festivities. Moreover, the month of December continues with the commemoration of the 1989 Revolution which started on December 16th, so there is a sense of saturation of shallow displays of patriotism. Most people enjoy the day for the free time it offers and, if it falls close to a weekend, for the extended respite it provides.
- Legea nr. 10. July 31. Accessed February 22, 2019. http://www.legex.ro/Lege-10-31.07.1990-957.aspx.
Realitatea.net. 2016. “Paradă 1 Decembrie 2016. Programul paradei militare de Ziua Națională a României.” Realitatea. December 1. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.realitatea.net/parada-1-decembrie-2016_2007668.html.
State Archives. 1918. “The Resolution of the National Assembly in Alba-Iulia on the 18th of November/ the 1st of December.” Institutul Național al Patrimoniului. Accessed February 22, 2019. http://www.cimec.ro/Istorie/Unire/rezo_eng.htm.
Ţimonea, Dorin. 2016. “Ziua Naţională a României. Cum se sărbătoreşte la Alba Iulia Marea Unire de la 1 Decembrie 1918.” Adevarul. December 1. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://adevarul.ro/locale/alba-iulia/ziua-nationala-romaniei-sarbatoreste-alba-iulia-marea-unire-1-decembrie-1918-1_583faea25ab6550cb80345c1/index.html.
Ziua Veche. 2018. “1 Decembrie 1918 – Cum s-a făcut Marea Unire. Ziua Naţională a României.” Ziua Veche. December 01. Accessed February 22, 2019. http://www.ziuaveche.ro/exclusiv-zv/dezbateri/1-decembrie-1918-cum-s-a-facut-marea-unire-ziua-nationala-a-romaniei-255128.html/.