The International Romani Day on April 8 celebrates the Romani culture and raises awareness about the issues that Romani people face. This day was officially declared in 1990 in Serock, Poland. This was the site of the International Romani Union’s fourth World Romani Congress. The Romani are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group who were traditionally nomadic. The majority of the Romani people live in Europe, and there are diaspora populations in the Americas. The Romani people are widely known for the term ‘Gypsies’ or ‘Gipsies.’ However, the Romani consider this an insult due to its connotations because it was historically used as a racial slur. While there are still traveling bands of Romani people, most of them use cars and R.V.s today to move from place to place instead of the horses and wagons of the past.
History of International Romani Day
Genetic and linguistic evidence points to the Romani coming from the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent. They later found their way to Europe and Western Asia. Often portrayed as strange and exotic, the Romani have faced persecution and discrimination for centuries. This discrimination was because of their dark skin. The Europeans viewed the Romani as inferior and enslaved them. The English Parliament passed a law in 1554 which stated that being a Gypsy was a felony punishable by death. Another form of discrimination is the Romani being portrayed as cunning, mysterious foreigners who tell fortunes, steal from the locals then move on to the next town.
Traditionally, the Romani were artisans with different skills such as farm workers, wood and copper craft workers, blacksmiths, fortune-tellers, musicians, and entertainers. Initially, they were welcomed for their skills, but soon governments and the church started viewing them as suspicious outsiders and ‘heathens.’
Millions of Romani live in isolated slums, many of them without any electricity or running water. They also struggle to get the health care they need. In addition, they face the daily threats of police harassment, forced evictions, and violent attacks. Romani children are often segregated in schools and receive a lower standard of education. According to UNICEF, about 12 million to 15 million Romani live in Europe, making them one of the largest ethnic minorities in the region today. About 70% of them live in Eastern Europe.
International Romani Day timeline
The Romani people arrive in West Asia and Europe.
There is widespread Romani emigration to the United States.
Council of Europe Deputy Secretary General Maud de Boer-Buquicchio expresses her concerns about growing Antiziganism (discrimination against Romanis) and encourages Europe's Romani populations to improve their poor living conditions.
Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, speaks of the United State's commitment to promoting and protecting the human rights of the Romani people throughout Europe.
International Romani Day FAQs
How do I say hello in Romani?
There are several options such as ‘sastipe!’ (‘Hello’), ‘lachho dives’ (‘Good day’), and ‘lachi tiri divés’ (‘Good day to you’).
Who are some famous Romani people?
Charlie Chaplin, Pablo Picasso, and Elvis Presley are said to be examples of celebrities of Romani origin.
When is the Roma Genocide Remembrance Day?
Romani Genocide Remembrance Day falls on August 2.
How to Observe International Romani Day
Take some Romani lessons
Romani is a rich language with several dialects, which makes it exciting to learn. Why not see if you can grasp a few basic phrases?
Read about the Romani people
The Romani history goes back several centuries. International Romani Day is perfect for delving into their vibrant culture.
Prepare a Romani dish
Traditional Romani cuisine is hot and spicy, yet delectable. Treat your taste buds to some pirogo, sarma, or xaimoko. Yum!
5 Facts About The Romani People
Romani in numbers
There are approximately one million Romani in the U.S. and 800,000 in Brazil.
There are more than two million speakers of the Romani language which consists of several dialects.
Famous Romani theaters
There are four well-known Romani theaters in the world, Romance Theater, Romen Theater, Romanothan, and Phralipe.
Influence on classical music
Romani musicians' performance practices have influenced European classical composers such as Johannes Brahms and Franz Liszt.
The Romani have a set of rules that govern their life called ‘romano zakono.’
Why International Romani Day is Important
It honors the Romani people
The Romani usually don't get positive recognition. International Romani Day is one way of setting things right.
We learn about a rich culture
From their cuisine to dressing, language, religion, and social norms, the Romani culture holds many gems. On this holiday, we get to know more about aspects of Romani life.
It raises awareness about Romani issues
Romani people have historically gone through so much discrimination, and this continues today. This holiday sheds light on their plight to ensure more people are aware. Hopefully, this will lead to society being more accepting of the Romani.
International Romani Day dates