February 24, 2015

Romanian Valentine Day




The Romanian equivalent of Valentine Day is called Dragobete. It dates back to Dacian times and is celebrated on February 24. Dragobete is the equivalent of Cupid, love’s god in Roman mythology, and Eros in Greek mythology.

Dragobete,  Youth God in Romanian Pantheon, nicknamed Spring Head, is celebrated, depending on the ethnographic area, on one of the days at the end of February or beginning of March. The legend claims that Dragobete is Dochia’s son. He stands for a positive element, in opposition to Dochia who is the bad mother of the earth, the embodiment of the old year, of winter, according to Geto-Dacian mythology. Dochia is represented as an old woman wearing nine sheepskins that she sheds along the road as she leaves the country.

It is around Dragobete time that the birds begin to build their nests and mate. Dragobete customs vary from region to region.  Considered locally the first day of spring, it is the moment when boys and girls pick snowdrops or other early spring plants for the person they are courting, and sing together. The girls keep the flowers until Sanziene day when they throw the flowers in a river.

As a rule, young people, girls and boys, meet at a house and spend the day together singing, eating and drinking, having a good time. Then they go to the nearby forest and make a hora, (traditional dance).

On Dragobete morning the girls and young women gather snow, melt it and use the water to wash their hair. They say their hair and complexion will be pretty and liked by men all year long.

Those who take part in Dragobete customs are supposed to be protected from illness, especially fevers, for the rest of the year. It is a common belief in some parts of Romania that, during this celebration, if you step over your partner's foot, you will have the dominant role in your relationship.

Dragobete festivities, once waited anxiously by young people living especially in Bucovina county, are almost forgotten. Only elderly people speak about them, trying to rekindle their flame in the heart of the young generations. I fear this  is unlikely to happen as  Saint Valentine Day, that has no connection to Romanian spirituality, is a strong competitor. And a good advertiser for all kind of trades.  All Dragobete rituals are little by little lost and replaced by the more glittering and louder ones of Valentine Day. No matter how beautiful our traditions may be, the interculturalism is leaving its print on the Romanian customs. 
Anyway, for those who still celebrate it, I wish a Happy Dragobete Day!


20 comments:

  1. Oh, how intriguing. I had never heard of Dragobete Day, but the customs definitely bring back thoughts of yesteryears. How sad that this celebration is fading in your country. Valentine's Day is fun, but old customs have such cultural connections. Thank you for sharing this legend. I wish you a Happy Dragobete Day, Carmen!

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    1. I myself was not very familiar with it until after 1989. For us 1st March - martisor was the traditional spring holiday. A nice and still en-vogue tradition over here. I will have a post about it ,too, though I posted twice in the last 2 years about Martisor.
      Thank you for the wishes, and though you don't celebrate it, I'd like to send the same wishes your way!

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    2. It's always a shame when older customs are lost as more commercial ones intrude. This is a very informative blog.

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    3. You are absolutely right, Toni! The new customs are perhaps more attractive as they are addressing people living in modern times and old traditions aren't as "shiny and loud"as the new ones.
      Thank you for visiting!

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  2. Fabulous post and what wonderful customs. I love the gifts of Snowdrops and keeping them until Sanziene day, also washing the face in the snow melt water. There is a similar custom here on May Day of washing the face in morning dew. A very happy Dragobette Day to all.

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    1. What a pity younger generations have lost the interest in what makes us, in fact, unique. I like the way British people are more conservative in regards to customs, traditions,preservation of historical areas, buildings, etc.
      Thank you for visiting! I really appreciate it!

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  3. What an interesting holiday and customs! I'd never heard of Dragobete before or the Romanian pantheon for that matter. Your blog is so interesting, Carmen.

    Happy Dragobete to you!

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    1. Thank you Linda!
      Yes, it is an area full of all kind of customs and beliefs. Many coming from pagan times and included later in the Romanian mythology and folklore. By Romanian Pantheon I men, in fact, the Dacian ancestors with Gebeleizis sun god and Bendis moon gofddess and Zamolxis.

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  4. I wish I had read this before the 24th protected from illness, this is great folklore.

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    1. As I say in the post, depending on the area, Dragobete is celebrated until the first days of March, so choose a county in Romania and celebrate Dragobete for a bringer of health and well being.
      Thank you for stopping by, Catalina!

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  5. Oh, what a wonderful post. I am thrilled to learn of Dragobete and of his being the son of old lady winter Dochia. I love the imagery of both of these beings. I love to hear all your fascinating lore of the Dacians etc. Your posts help keep the knowledge alive.

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed it. There are so many things in Romanian lore worth reading about. Fascinating indeed. Thanks for commenting!

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  6. Thank you for sharing Dragobete with us, Carmen. It sounds like a wonderful time and it is sad that it is being forgotten.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by,Susan!
      Yes, it's sad that traditions are replaced by imported customs. They could very well live side by side, but the new ones are more glamorous and better advertised.

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  7. Happy belated Dragobete or Valentine's day, Carmen. Very interesting article. Your country is not only very beautiful but also you have wonderful customs. Thanks for sharing this.!!

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    1. Thank you for visiting Elina!
      There are many customs and traditions and indeed it is a beautiful country. Unfortunately we can't seem to be able to live from tourism like Greeks do.

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  8. Excellent post and very informative. I really enjoyed learning more about the Romanian customs!

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    1. Thank you for checking my post about some of the customs around here!

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  9. Happy Dragobete Day, Carmen.
    Great info as usual.

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    1. Thank you, Sandra, for checking the post and wishes!
      well, even if it's not as famous as Valentine Day, it's always great to celebrate true love.

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