- Dragobete is Romania’s exclusive celebration, a day dedicated to love and spring’s renewal, with customs predating Valentine’s Day.
- Celebrations include wearing red for love, searching for spring flowers, exchanging kisses under blossoming trees, jumping over fires for purification, and crafting love potions.
- Dragobete is growing in popularity each year, with themed parties, romantic getaways, and the exchange of gifts.
Did you know that Romanians have their own “Valentine’s Day?” We do, and it is called Dragobete – a unique, special celebration of love and spring renewal, celebrated each year on February 24th.
I briefly touched on the subject when I talked about Romanian traditions, but today I want to go more in-depth with it, especially since love is in the air with Valentine’s Day incoming.
The Legend of the Dragobete
According to Romanian folklore, Dragobete was a handsome young man, the son of Baba Dochia, the goddess of winter.
Dragobete was known as a charming fellow, capable of making anyone fall in love with him. On February 24th, he would start roaming the countryside, playing his flute, and spreading happiness and love wherever he went.
Legend has it that on this day, birds would mate and flowers would bloom, as nature rejoiced in the arrival of spring, encouraged by the Dragobete.
Couples would also express their love for each other, by exchanging love letters and poems, but also small gifts like flowers or sweets.
Traditions and Customs for Dragobete’s Day
Unique to Romanians (like the Martisor I am going to write about soon), the Dragobete is not just a celebration of love, but also the perfect time to restart your connection with nature and prepare for the coming of spring.
While this celebration was not very popular for decades, especially after the 1990s, when Valentine’s Day took over, it recently started to grow in popularity, with more and more Romanians choosing to celebrate it instead or usually after Valentine’s Day.
After all… two excuses to celebrate love are always better than just one, right?
There are plenty of customs and rituals associated with this celebration – but generally, expect to have Valentine’s Day-like parties, gift-giving, and such in the cities.
But let’s check out the main customs below!
1. Wearing red: On Dragobete, it’ i’ss customary for both men and women to wear red, as a symbol of love, passion, and vitality. Red is believed to ward off evil spirits and attract good luck.
2. Kissing under a blossoming tree: Couples gather under a blossoming tree, usually an apple or cherry tree, and exchange kisses and sweet words. It is said that the tree’s blossoms would bring good luck and fertility to the couple.
Now would be a perfect time to start practicing your Romanian skills. Prepare by learning, from my previous article, how to say I Love You in Romanian (and more!)
3. Stepping on your partner’s foot: A funny tradition saying that whoever steps on their partner’s foot first during the Dragobete Day, will have the upper hand in the relationship for the rest of the year.
4. Searching for spring flowers: Young girls and boys would go out into the fields, woods, or hills, searching for the first flowers of spring.
This is something no longer done – not even in the villages, as far as I know, since due to the climate change, the first flowers are long gone… and they’re usually easier to find in stores.
5. Jumping over fires: In some parts of Romania, people would light bonfires and jump over them, as a way to purify their bodies and souls. It was also thought that by jumping over the fire, one could break bad luck or curses.
6. Making love potions: It was believed that on Dragobete, nature was filled with magical powers and that one could make love potions or spells, by using ingredients such as honey, wine, or herbs.
These potions were supposed to enhance one’s charm, attractiveness, and luck in love.
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Dragobete is a unique Romanian celebration of love, but also of reconnecting with nature and preparing for spring. Dragobete is celebrated yearly on February 24th.
It’s not a religious holiday, but one that has been growing in popularity for the past few years already, offering solid competition to Valentine’s Day – which Romanians have happily adopted.
So if you happen to be in Romania during this time, it’s best to prepare for this unique holiday.