The Dragobete is the Romanian version of the Valentine’s Day, that celebrates love. It is celebrated on February 24 and symbolizes the beginning of spring for our ancestors, the joy of nature’s awakening, fully shared by human beings.
Dragobete, unlike the kind and gentle Saint Valentine of the Catholic tradition, is a charming, restless and passionate man. Initially an ancient Dacian god, a matchmaker and a godfather of animals, Romanians turned Dragobete into the protector of the love of couples that meet on Dragobete Day, a love that was forecasted to last for the whole year, similarly to birds that ‘get engaged’ on the same day, tradition says.
A special saying is dedicated to this day: ‘Dragobete kisses the girls.’ There are many beliefs referring to this holiday. For instance, they say that attendants to this holiday would be protected from diseases, and especially fever, and that Dragobete helps people to have a successful year. Girls and boys dressed in their best clothes met in front of the church and left to the woods, to search for spring flowers.
Romanian folk tradition says on Lovers Day, birds are nesting and mating. As the birds do, young men and women are meant to get together and start wooing. If weather is nice, men have to go to the woods and pick snowdrops from under the snow. During the evening, the girls and boys gather round a fire and they tell stories and sing songs.
When the girls are heading home, the boys are supposed to steal a kiss from them. The couple that kissed in front of the other youngsters are considered engaged for a whole year.
Other folk traditions say village people were forbidden to work on the field, as Dragobete would punish them and steal away their human voice, replacing it with a bird’s voice. People are not allowed to go hunting wild birds or sacrificing domestic birds on this day, as birds were considered the messengers of love.
Young girls who want to get married have to go to the woods and pick berries and flowers, which they take home and place in water. This ritual was believed to have given them beauty and luck in marriage.