Great Union Day 2017 and 2018
National Day in Romania is celebrated annually every December 1st to commemorate the expansion of Romania to, more or less, its present-day boundaries in the aftermath of World War I. National Day is also called “Great Union Day,” since it is the day on which Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Bukovina joined Romania in 1918.
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Great Union Day can easily be confused with Unification Day, but that holiday comes on January 24th and commemorates the formation of Romania with the union of the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. Also of interest is the fact that Romania’s national day used to be on May 10th, the day in 1877 when Romania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire. Finally, note that, during Communist rule in Romania, the national day was on August 23rd, marking the removal of a fascist-sympathising government and the establishment of Soviet control in 1944.
The district of Bukovina reunited with Romania in 1918, but it had been one of the original heartland regions of Moldavia for centuries. It was fought over by Poles, Turks, Russians, and finally, fell into Austrian hands in 1774. After the disintegration of Austria-Hungary after World War I, both Romania and Ukrainian rebels claimed and fought for control over Bukovina. With the help of Polish forces, however, Romania won the dispute.
Bessarabia, largely corresponding to the modern nation of Moldova, was originally part of Moldavia but was lost to the Turkish and then to the Russian Empire. It briefly rejoined Romania after World War I.
The main acquisition in 1918 was Transylvania and the adjacent regions of Banat, Crisana, and Maramures. Delegates representing Romanians living in these areas met in the Transylvanian town of Alba Iulia on December 1st, 1918, to unanimously vote to unify with Romania. Around 100,000 people attended the meeting in Alba Iulia, and the declaration of unity with Romania was read aloud to the crowds.
Transylvania was the core region of the ancient Dacian kingdom, which is considered a kind of precursor of modern Romania. Dacia was conquered by the Roman Empire but later abandoned. It was then overrun by a long train of nomadic, warlike tribes. The Magyars, modern Hungarians, arrived in the 9th Century A.D. and ruled over Transylvania for many years. However, Transylvania later became an independent principality, and its Romanian population gradually grew during this time. In 1683, Transylvania was acquired by the Austrian Hapsburg Empire.
Once Transylvania and the other provinces voted to join Romania in 1918, Romania nearly doubled in size. Hungary protested because over 30 percent of Transylvanians were Hungarian, but Romanians were in the majority and voted to unite with their fellow Romanians to the east and south.
On National Day, Romanians fly their national flag, which represents the three major regions of their country. The blue stripe stands for Transylvania, the yellow stripe for Wallachia, and the red stripe for Moldavia. It was only from December 1st, 1918, on that all three provinces were in the Romanian union.
Those touring Romania on National Day will find there are a number of activities to attend, including the following:
- Join the National Day celebration in Alba Iulia, the very town where the declaration of Union between Transylvania and Romania was signed in 1918. Alba Iulia is known as “union city,” and there will speeches and a military parade in town on National Day to help recall the union that was enacted here almost a century ago.
- Attend the large military parade in Bucharest, the capital city, which sometimes has as many as 2,000 soldiers marching in it. Public National Day speeches will also be given in Bucharest, and you may be able to tune in on radio or TV as well.
- Attend any of the numerous World War I commemoration events held throughout the land. And also attend National Day concerts, held in many city halls and often playing the Romanian national anthem, among other pieces.
Romanians take great pride in their “greater union” formed in 1918, and tourists will see their patriotism on full display if they visit Romania on National Day.