The National Day is celebrated in all the towns and cities of Romania, but, since Alba Iulia was where the Union was carried into effect almost 100 years ago, it stands to reason that the festivities and ceremonies carried out here should be the most spectacular. As a rule, major political and even cultural figures of Romania come to Alba Iulia on December the 1st to attend the various events dedicated to celebrating mainly the three most important aspects of the Union: the military that made it possible, the spiritual component that united all Romanians under the flag of Christianity, and the cultural aspect, with everything involved in it, from unity of language to the coherence of cultural values.
In its relatively short history as a modern state, Romania has had three key events celebrated as National Day. The first such major event to be recorded and celebrated throughout the country was the Coronation of king Carol I as ruler of the United Romanian Principalities, on May 10th 1866, followed exactly eleven years later, on May 10th 1877, by the Declaration of Independence. After the coup d’etat that put an end to monarchy in Romania and transformed the state into a republic, the new authorities voted to change the National Day to August 23rd, in honor of another coup, the 1944 overthrow of the pro-fascist regime led by Marshall Ion Antonescu. Finally, after the Revolution of December 1989, the National Day was changed yet again, this time to December 1st, marking the Unification of Transylvania and the smaller provinces of Banat, Crisana, and Maramures with Romania.
A solemn walk through history is usually part of the ceremonies and includes visits of state officials to statues of various personalities, such as Ionel Bratianu, prominent politician and prime minster of Romania during the Unification; Iuliu Maniu, passionate unionist campaigner and leader of the Alba Iulia gathering of December 1st 1918; King Ferdinand and Queen Maria; and Michael the Brave, enactor of the first unification.
The army is displayed in its entire splendor in a military parade, followed by a procession of oversized flags titled “United Under the Tricolor”. The national Flag of Romania remains the strongest symbol throughout the ceremonies, marking the start of the festivities at exactly a quarter past noon, when it is hoisted in the Tricolor Square, on the esplanade of the Coronation Cathedral. Other military festivities include a changing of the guard and a special cannon salute.
Parades, processions and salutes aside, the most historically accurate ceremony of the entire celebration is a re-enactment of one of the major moments of the Union – the arrival of the delegations representing the capitals of the provinces that had voted in favor of the Union. Every year, on December the 1st, delegations of people from all corners of Romania, still dressed in medieval garment, show up at Alba Iulia and are received with honors by city officials, reconfirming that the wish for unity was and remains unanimous.
In sharp contrast with this re-enactment of the past, the day’s celebrations end with the best that modern technology has to offer: laser shows, pop and rock music concerts and, appropriately festive, splendid fireworks.