Dragobete, the more archaic and agrarian Romanian counterpart of Valentine’s Day, celebrates not only love and happiness, but also the arrival of spring and the mating of animals. Although V Day was quite rapidly embraced and celebrated—in a rather commercial fashion—in the past 30 years, Romanians still enjoy observing the more traditional Dragobete. Here are 10 things associated with this day you probably didn’t know about.
1| Dragobete is celebrated on February 24th, only several days apart from the more famous Valentine’s Day, and less than a month before the spring equinox.
2| Legend has it that Dragobete, or Dragomir, was the son—half man, half angel—of Baba Dochia, a mythical figure associated with spring. A young man, beautiful and immortal, Dragobete is the patron of love and merriment. Although often compared to Eros / Cupid for being the protector of youth and love, Dragobete never interfered in men’s lives (well, except seducing girls, of course).
3| Although etymologists don’t completely agree on the origin of the name, many believe that Dragobete comes from the old slavic word dragŭ, meaning loved or treasured, which is the same root for the Romanian word for love, dragoste.
4| Some sources link the celebration with the arrival of spring, fertility, and the rebirth of nature; it is said that around this date the birds begin to build their nests and mate, therefore in some regions Dragobete is also considered the patron saint of birds.
5| Customarily, on this day, young people dressed in traditional clothes would go to the woods, picking spring flowers, like snowdrops or crocuses, for the ones they loved. Around noon, the girls would start running back to the village being chased by the boys, and if the ones they liked caught them, they would kiss in front of the whole village, thus making their love known to everybody.
6| In some regions, maidens used to collect the remaining snow—“the snow of the fairies”—and melt it, using the resulting water for both beautifying purposes as well as magic potions in the year to come.
7| Working the fields, weaving or sewing were prohibited on this day, however cleaning the house was encouraged, as a sign of prosperity.
8| Slaughtering was also prohibited on Dragobete day, since it was believed this would have interfered with the animals’ mating.
9| People should try not to cry or be sad for Dragobete, because otherwise the whole year ahead will be full of sorrows. On the contrary, everyone is encouraged to have fun and be merry, for a love-filled year.
10| A popular superstition states that if you’re an unmarried girl and put basil under your pillow on the night of Dragobete, you’ll dream your future lover.
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