Culture and traditions

What are the main customs of the gypsies?

The set of customs of the gypsy people has changed historically. There are numerous differences regarding the uses and customs of the gypsies of Spain with respect to those of other European or South American countries, although there are some common characteristics that we detail below.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Gypsy law

When one speaks of "power" in the Roma people, reference is made to the power of a family of this race, which will be greater the more male children it has. This custom is based on the history of the gypsy people, according to which the greater the number of men, the better a family could defend itself.

However, the men of a gypsy family may be strong, but they must also gain the respect of others over time, something that can only be achieved through strict compliance of gypsy law.

Gypsy Law

The gypsy norms are oral, which means that they are not included in any type of cult book or written law code. Normally, it is the elders or patriarchs who preside over the gypsy law, so this regulation may vary according to each family and the beliefs of their patriarch. Even so, in general, the following acts are considered by the gypsies as unforgivable crimes:

  • Theft, deceit or delation from gypsy to gypsy.
  • Abandonment of the family in complicated moments.
  • Invasion of the limits of an "opposite" family.
  • Breach of the laws imposed by a council of elders.

It should be noted that, since it is an oral law, the limits between what differentiates the law (of obligatory compliance) from the practices of use (usually carried out, but not obligatory) of the gypsy people are often diffuse and easily confused, which often leads to disputes even within the same family.

Failure to comply with gypsy law usually results in the imposition of some type of sanction that will depend on the seriousness of the crime. The usual sanctions can range from physical aggression to the express prohibition of stepping on a certain territory. The most serious penalty would be the expulsion from the family group to which it belongs, known as "banishment."

The word of the patriarch in the gypsy people

Main values

Gypsies have always had characteristic identity traits and a partially nomadic lifestyle in the sense that, despite living with a particular society, they have never neglected their main customs and values.

Gypsies have a iron identity, which is why they behave differently as they deal with strangers or relatives. While the former are usually treated outside the same way as in Spain with the use of the term payo To refer to those who are not gypsies, when it comes to relatives, the other must be defended if he has been offended, whatever the reason. Thus, its main values ​​are:

  • The family as a supreme institution
  • Children and the elderly enjoy maximum respect and consideration
  • The care of children and the elderly
  • Being hospitable is an obligation that must be expressed with pleasure
  • The fulfillment of the word given and, above all, the gypsy law
  • Freedom as the natural condition of the individual
  • Solidarity between members of the same ethnic group
  • Compliance with the decisions of the elderly if they are part of gypsy law
The gypsy people and respect for the family

If there is any kind of conflict between gypsies, those who must decide the final destination of said dispute will be the gypsies of respect or uncles in the area, who will form a Council of Elders to discuss what needs to be done and finally take a measure that resolves the conflict. The decision of the gypsies of respect will be based, above all, on the values ​​listed above and should be beneficial to both parties, who must accept it whatever.

Pedimiento, wedding and marriage

A gypsy couple who decides to marry has to go through two phases: first, the request and then the wedding itself. The request is the hand request of the gypsy girl and begins with the pairing or hand request, something that takes place between the couple. If everything goes as expected, the search must be made official and communicated to the family through the request.

Once announced to the entire group, the wedding will be organized, something that will depend on the economic means of the families involved. However, weddings are the main social ceremony held in the gypsy community, so they usually take place in a big way. Gypsy weddings take place by the evangelist or Catholic rite in the morning. In addition, as dictated by gypsy tradition, both members of the couple must arrive virgin to marriage, something known as purity.

Gypsy wedding

However, the most macho gypsy communities believe that men have the freedom to choose whether they want to keep their purity until marriage or not, for whatever their personal choice, it will be respected. This does not apply in the case of women, who cannot marry if they are not virgins, unless an unmarried man wants to "join" with her, as the gypsy tradition says.

The virginity of women is so important for the Roma community that the call is made on the wedding day handkerchief test. This act, which is borne by a woman who receives the name of Ajuntaora, consists of introducing a handkerchief to the bride in her vagina to check if the handkerchief is stained or not with blood (the so-called "three roses"). If it stains, then there is no doubt that it is a virgin and, therefore, can marry.

In the handkerchief test, in addition to the "city councilor", several women invited to the wedding act as witnesses. The handkerchief used is usually half a meter long, is white and decorated with roses and an embroidered strip. The realization of this test is a service that is previously contracted and can cost up to 600 euros, including the price of the handkerchief. This act demonstrates the legitimacy of marriage and is celebrated by singing the famous alboreá.

International Day of the Gypsy People

Since 1971, on April 8 of each year, the International Day of the Gypsy People is celebrated to commemorate the celebration of the First International Congress of the Gypsy People, which took place in London that same year. This is one of the most important days of the year for the Roma community because in this congress some fundamental issues were agreed, such as those detailed below:

  • Flag of the Gypsy People: the gypsy flag is, in fact, an adaptation of the flag of India, given the origin of the gypsy people. It is divided into two horizontal stripes, one blue and one green, with a red wheel in the center, which symbolizes the desire for freedom beyond the imposed borders. It is the hallmark of the Roma community throughout the planet.
Flag of the gypsy people
  • International Gypsy Hymn or Gelem Gelem: the title literally means "I walked" and refers to the itinerant condition of the gypsy people. It is written in the Roman language and, among other aspects, addresses the genocide and persecution suffered by the Roma people by German troops during World War II.
  • Romanó as official language: The establishment of Romano as the official language of the Roma people worldwide meant the normalization of their alphabet and grammar. There are various dialects around the world, such as the "caló" spread in Spain.

This day is celebrated by calling River Ceremony and it is a great opportunity for gypsies from all over the world to remember and understand the history of the Roma, as well as their culture and language. In it, gypsies from all over the world gather on the banks of the rivers to celebrate this day with an offering of flowers in which women throw flower petals into the water as a symbol of freedom and representing the exodus of the gypsy people several centuries


Music is undoubtedly one of the strengths of folklore within the gypsy community. Although in gypsy music you can hear sounds that are very reminiscent of India and countries like Turkey, Iran and Greece, among others, without a doubt, the most popular style has been flamenco, especially in Andalusia (Spain) .

Declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010, the Flemish It is today the hallmark of numerous groups and communities around the world, especially the Roma people, for whom it is not only a musical style, but an element that has played a crucial role in its evolution.

Flamenco and the gypsy people

Gypsies are linked to music from a very young age, since their presence is constant and almost daily in gypsy families. In fact, it is common for gypsies to learn to sing the first Flemish bars first and later to speak. In short, the gypsy people have made a great contribution to Spanish flamenco. Examples of this are singers such as Ketama, Azúcar Moreno, Antonio Flores, Camarón, Paco de Lucía, Navajita Plateá and a long etcetera.

In Eastern European countries, flamenco ceases to play an essential role among gypsies in favor of the call zingara music, commonly called Hungarian music for its special fame among the gypsies of Hungary and some bordering regions. It is a type of music characterized by its exoticism and instrumental variety, as can be seen in the following video:

Respect for the dead

Death is another of the fundamental pillars in the life of a gypsy and, therefore, the pain of the individual is one of the most respectable events by the community. When a family member or close friend dies, gypsies usually wear black until 12 months later as a way to express their pain. In addition, when crossing with the affected gypsy, respect gestures such as turning off music or television or stop singing and dancing should be shown.

In addition to wearing black, relatives of the deceased must carry out a series of restrictions to comply with the duel:

  • Do not use soap
  • Not shave
  • Do not listen to music or dance
  • Do not wear new clothes
  • Do not attend community parties
  • Not paint

Men must wear a small black ribbon on their shirt during the mourning period and burn it at the end of it. The duration of this and other restrictions depends on the relationship between the deceased and the other person, so it can last from a week to a whole year. In addition, when the cemetery is visited (act called limoria) Candles, fruits, cigarettes, flowers, etc. are usually carried

Similarly, the gypsies show great respect for their dead, which is why one of the worst insults among them is to offend the dead. The death of a gypsy is a wake up to 3 days in which a series of traditions are carried out. One of the most common is to place under the coffin the objects that the deceased liked most, which can range from tobacco to fresh fruits or wine.

Death and mourning in the gypsy community

It is important to note that the Roma community does not allow autopsies: the gypsy must be buried just as he died, including clothes, jewelry and any other object that was with him at the time of his death. This is a fundamental norm in the gypsy people that will only vary if the deceased indicated otherwise in life.

Another deeply rooted custom is to organize the funeral banquet in memory of the deceased gypsy. It takes place 7 days after death and then is held again at 6 months and again after one year. It is a great meal in which the dishes that the deceased liked most are cooked, which is why a space is also left on the table reserved for him or her.

It is also very common to make a series of promises of a sacred nature and of obligatory fulfillment after death. In case of not fulfilling these promises, the individual may be cursed or prkleto in the Roman language, which is why it will be despised and even marginalized by the rest of the members of the community.

Birth of a child

For gypsies, the arrival of a child in the life of a marriage is one of the most relevant events in life. The day of birth is lived with immense happiness on the part of the whole family of both parents. In addition, it is important to note that the sex of the first child is always expected to be male, since, as mentioned above, the greater the number of men, the greater power for the family.

In the period of time from the birth to the child's baptism a very special event takes place that consists of cut the baby's first nails by the family member who has the greatest grace for the arts (singing, dancing, playing an instrument or even telling jokes). Therefore, while cutting the child's nails, he must do what he knows best, since the child will also inherit this "grace."

Gypsy customs at birth of a baby

A rite of birth is also celebrated to which all members of the gypsy community attend. It consists of a party held at the father's or godfather's house, in which there are several liquors and sweets. This ritual serves to reinforce family ties between the family and the new member. Strengthen social ties through the figure of the godfather, which happens to be called godfatherIt is also of the utmost importance.


Gypsies have always been believers and have been strongly linked to the spiritual world, hence the set of beliefs around a unique God, protective and close to their needs. However, the religion of the gypsies varies depending on their place of residence. Although most gypsies usually confess CatholicsIn some countries there are adherents to the Muslim religion and even Orthodox or Protestant Christians. In recent decades, a tendency towards evangelical faith has been observed.

Gypsies whose origin is in Western Europe (France, Spain, Portugal …) show a clear preference for the Catholic Church in its great majority, but also for the Evangelical Church of Philadelphia. On the other hand, the religion of choice of gypsies from Eastern Europe (Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania …) is the Orthodox Catholic Church.

The gypsy people and religion

Likewise, ethics and religion are intimately linked in gypsy culture, which is why magic-tabuísitic behavior reigns in them in which superstition It plays a very important role, and even on some occasions it influences its way of acting above the religious. It is the reason why they believe in the evil eye, omens, curses and divination, as well as in the special and particular powers existing in certain people.

Since the God of the gypsies is an entity made to measure and manufactured according to their interests, the gypsy believes that he is only committing sin when he violates the rights of his race. Gypsies believe that they offend their God when they violate any of the rules imposed by gypsy law, such as missing the sense of union or not helping other gypsies.

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