The year is ending in Romania not with a bang, but with a whimper.
No firework displays; no parties, not even private bashes at home; nobody allowed on the street after 11pm unless there’s a medical or another emergency.
The coronavirus pandemic has drastically curtailed New Year celebrations this year to the disappointment of many and relief of a few who find the full-on-party-until-you drop atmosphere too much to bear.
In some ways, NYE 2020 is reminiscent of the communist era except that faith is now free and churches will be able to hold services on Jan. 1, with suitable social distancing and face masks compulsory for worshipers.
However, the unprecedented crisis has also been an opportunity. Matt Highley, a Briton who’s lived in Romania for 17 years, responded to the challenges with a home-delivery cocktail service.
“I started the business basically because if people can’t go out to cocktail bars then the whole culture will slowly fade away,” he told universul.net.
“I wanted to bring that whole ‘martini’ experience to people at home,” he explained.
His business consists of packs of freshly made cocktails delivered anywhere in Bucharest, the Romanian capital.
He said that the idea was inspired by the lockdown and a year ago, it wouldn’t have even occurred to him.
Still, Mr. Highley has to respect the curfew and has told customers all deliveries will be done until 7 pm.
He’s even thinking ahead to Valentine’s Day, the next big celebration in Romania and adds he’s happy as “I also get to keep some people employed which is a good thing.”
Whether it’s cocktails at home this year or the usual glorious firework displays, the New Year celebrations are traditionally one, if not the biggest party of the year in Romania.
Traditionally, restaurants offer revelers six-course meals and live entertainment that goes on until dawn, and there are outdoor concerts in cities.
Everyone, it seems, is out, either at parties or on the streets.
It’s traditionally a lucrative period for artists and the hospitality sector, which have borne the brunt of the health crisis which began in March.
And while some grumbled that the restrictions were excessive, it was clear the virus was still raging on Thursday when 4,320 tested positive for Covid-19, one in five of everyone tested, and there were 171 SARS-CoV-2-related deaths.
But Romanians have also striven to maintain some sense of normality and fireworks have been on sale outside malls and in markets, and people have been out shopping at the mall in recent days.
Some fashion stores have displayed glamorous, glittery frocks and faux furs in their windows, like a middle finger to the virus.
The current restrictions are also less likely to affect rural areas, where villagers dress up as bears and goats to celebrate the New Year. The animal heads and other masks they use as costumes provide probably much better protection than the three-ply masks most people wear in public.
Firework displays will still take place in the cities, but residents will have to watch them online.
Anyone out on the street after 11pm until 5 am without a valid reason, such as a medical emergency, risks a fine. Even visits to friends and relatives are off limits, though it’s hard to see how authorities will enforce the rule.
Those who rent out private spaces or outdoor restaurants will also have to be home by 11pm, authorities said.
Romanian authorities extended the state of alert for another month in mid-December as cases rose. Under the rules, restaurants are shut except for takeaways or if they have outdoor seating. In any case, they have to close by 9pm.
Matt Highley’s cocktail business has found a way to cope with the curfew.
His cocktails which arrive in a box five hours before midnight come with a note.
“Just add ice.”