Dragobete – the Romanian holiday of love
It is said that love travels beyond time and space, but how can this be possible? I invite you, dear reader, in a journey of words, allowing you to discover the unique way in which the Romanians celebrate love. Unveil a tradition that started long ago and that’s still very popular nowadays.
Forget about Valentine’s Day, about the big red hearts, chocolate or fluffy toys. Take a moment and dive into more than 2000 years of traditions, legends and rituals. And who knows? Maybe, if you pay attention and respect the traditions exactly, you will (re)discover your special one this year!
Who is “Dragobete”?
24th of February is the day when Romanians celebrate Dragobete, a day filled with love and romance that brings in the new spring season. It is a symbol of youth and pristine love, of hope and new life cycles.
It is said that Dragobete is a Dacian God, similar to Cupid or Eros – the Greek God. He is the protector of love, joy and fertility and he is strongly connected to nature. He is linked to that special time of the year when birds build their nests and mate, when spring shows up and when nature restarts the life cycle – a time of rebirth for the entire nature and also a time for young love.
Traditions locked in time
In some parts of the country, single women used to wake up in the morning, gather some remaining snow and melt it down. If there was no snow left, they had to fill a pot with rainwater or from a nearby spring. The water obtained like this had magical powers – it was used for beauty treatments and for love rituals.
Young girls were taught to eat a piece of salty bread (baked by the eldest woman in the household), then place some basil under the pillow. During the night, they were supposed to see their future husband in their dreams.
So, what happened on Dragobete’s day? Boys and girls used to dress-up in their “Sunday clothes” (fancy clothing) and meet in front of the church. Then, they would go to the nearest woods or meadows, singing in groups and looking for spring flowers. After sitting and talking around a fire, the girls would run back to the village, each being followed by the boy who had fallen in love with her. If the boy caught the girl and if she liked him, he would steal a kiss in front of everybody. This wasn’t just a game, it was a vow of love for the whole year along with the opportunity to show their attachment in front of the community. The traditional saying is that “Dragobetele kisses the girls!” (Dragobetele pupă fete!), with each boy that stole a kiss becoming a “Dragobete”.
In the villages, there’s whispers and mumbles all over the alleys, wondering who loves whom. Young people believe that they should be happy and respectful on 24th of February, so that they can be in love the whole year.
What better reason do you need to sing, dance and kiss the girl you like, in this mystical day of Dragobete?
— by Maria