The Romanian Valentine’s Day – Dragobete
Everybody knows that Romanians are welcoming and warm people. But they are also passionate people. While the Romanians have adopted Valentine’s Day in recent years, we also have our own “celebration” of love – and it’s called Dragobete.
The Romanian celebration of love
In Romania, the holiday of Dragobete is traditionally celebrated on February 24th. In addition to a celebration of love, it is also a celebration of the spring to come. But before we tell you about how it is celebrated, we need to understand the story behind it. In order to do that, we need to look into Romanian folklore and mythology.
The legend of Dragobete
The story starts with a young girl named Dochia. Legend has it that Dochia was one of the most beautiful and pure women in our lands. Dochia’s beauty and purity attracted not only the attention of mortals but also of the gods. The god of the mountains was one of those enchanted by the girl’s beauty and purity.
One sunny day, Dochia was tired and sat to rest in the shade, at the edge of a forest, falling asleep. The god of the mountains, who had fallen in love with the girl, then found the perfect opportunity to get close to Dochia. He turned to mist and descended the mountains to where the girl was sleeping, leaving her pregnant.
Nine months later, Dochia gave birth to a son, Dragobete. At birth, he had four fairy godmothers: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. The four were so happy that Dragobete was born, that each one gave him a unique gift:
Spring – Gave him love, the freshness of flowers and eternal youth.
Summer – Gave him the sweetness of fruits and the warmth of love.
Autumn – Gave him a flute to sing to people and delight them.
Winter – Gave him the most beautiful white clothes, that shined like diamonds.
All these gifts, generously given to him by the four seasons, helped him seduce all the unmarried women he met in his travels – because Dragobete would travel all across our lands. And this is the reason for which he became a symbol of love.
The legend claims that every year, on the night of February 23rd, Dragobete showed up in the dreams of unmarried boys and taught them everything they needed to know in order to win the heart of their beloved ones.
After hundreds of years of showing people how to love and live in good fortune, Dragobete died and transformed himself in a “navalnic” – a plant which is found until this day in Romanian forests.
Even though Dragobete has lost some popularity in the face of the very popular Valentine’s day, it is still celebrated in some areas in Romania.
Traditionally, on the day of Dragobete, early in the morning, unmarried boys will put their traditional festive clothes on and go to the forest. Here, they will gather flowers, the first flowers of spring, for the girl of their dreams.
At midday, the village girls will run to the center of their village and wait for the boys to come back. When the boys return to the village, they have to run and catch the girl with whom they had fallen in love. If a girl would share the boy’s feelings, she would let herself get caught and receive the flowers picked up by the boy.
It is believed that the ones who participate in this celebration are blessed with well-being and health all year round.