Dragobete versus Saint Valentine.

Dragobete is very similar to Saint Valentine. People say that the one who is not celebrating this day will not be loved during the year, but the one who does will be in love every day of the current year. Dragobete is celebrated each year on the 24th of February.

According to local legends, Dragobete, a handsome and loving young man, was the son of “Baba Dochia”- a mythical Romanian character. Dragobete has his roots in the culture of the Dacian ancestors, where he was a matchmaker and godfather of all animals.

In some parts of Romania, February 24th is considered the first day of spring, a time when nature renews itself after a difficult winter, the bear gets out of his lair, the birds start looking for mates and nests, and man also has to participate in the joy of nature through love.

Weather it is a Celtic, a Roman or a Greek one, this shows that no matter where they live on this planet, people celebrate each year the pure, mysterious and unpredictable feeling that love is.

This has later extended to people also, and young people keep the tradition up to this day: boys and girls meet on this special day to make their love last. People believed that birds got engaged on Dragobete’s day. So the holiday has a quite deep motivation, if we come to think that birds were considered messengers of gods, the Greek word for “bird” meaning “heaven message.” Dragobete is also a deity of joy and well being, prone to giving parties and festivities, which often ended up in marriage.

According to the Romanian common belief, those who took part in the Dragobete festivities were protected against any sickness all yearlong. So: early in the morning, dressed up in their Sunday best, young people used to meet in the center of the village or in front of the church. If the weather was good, they would go singing in small groups to the forest, to look for snowdrops or other spring flowers, and if the weather was bad, they would gather at one’s place to play games and tell stories.

At noon, the girls would start running back towards the village, a tradition called “zburatorit“. A boy would chase the girl he likes. If the girl were fond of him too, she would let him catch and kiss her in front of everybody. This kiss was supposed to seal the ludic engagement of the two for a year, an engagement that usually preceded the real one. The coming fall would be richer in weddings if couples formed on this magic day were numerous.

If the weather was bad, the party would be held inside a house, where youngsters would “throw a Dragobete“ with food and drinks. Sometimes, the boys would visit neighboring villages, singing and whistling, in order to have a good summer.

For older people, Dragobete is the day when they had to take care of all the animals in the yard. It is said that those who celebrate this custom will stay healthy and in good fortune throughout the year.

On this occasion, young people used to make symbolic engagements (sometimes followed by real engagements). In the forest, they would gather around fires and talk. The girls would pick up flowers that were thought to have miraculous powers, in order to perform special rituals for love magic.

Young girls would collect the fresh snow that they could find on this day and turn it into water. The water obtained from the immaculate snow was considered to be a magic love potion, which girls would use throughout the whole year. At lunchtime, girls suddenly started running back to the village. Each boy would begin chasing the girl he liked. If the boy was fast enough and the girl he was chasing liked him back, this chase was followed by a long kiss. This was the playful engagement of the two, meant to last for at least another year.

Women used to touch a man from another village on Dragobete’s day, in order to behave more affectionately for the rest of the year, and they would also remember to well feed the animals in the courtyard, the birds in the sky, and protect all living creatures. Young men often partied in the neighboring villages, in order to have real good summers.

So Dragobete is a holiday of love, full of superstitions and special rituals. It was considered to bear luck for all activities and human actions, not only the small things, but also the big businesses. Farmers believed that Dragobete could help them have a richer year.

People would not work on this day; they would keep it just like a religious holiday. They resumed their work to cleaning the house and cooking. It was believed that this deity would punish the girls who worked on Dragobete’s day. Even if he sometimes “punished” the disobedient ladies, Dragobete was seen as protector of love, bearing luck to young lovers and young people in general, like a true Romanian Cupid.

Thanks for reading. And now, party on ! 😀

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