ILoveRomania Magazine - sights, people, traditions and customs
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Would You Be My… Dragobete?

Would You Be My… Dragobete?

What do “Romeo and Juliet”, “The Swan Lake”, “Troy” and “John Lennon” have in common, of course besides a tragic ending? Well, let me help you. It begins with “L” and it ends with “E”… one word “LOVE”. This wonderful feeling that has been spoken, sung and even danced about through centuries is the reason why the whole world vibrates and also the reason I am writing this article.

Don’t worry, I am not a brilliant thinker, nor a philosopher to define something which, if you ask me, cannot be defined, or to elaborate a long and deep speech about the meaning of love. I am just a passionate and too curious young girl who loves her country with its people and stories, trying to show to the world the unknown face of Romania.

Today we will start with the “loveable face” of Romania. First, let’s have a closer look at the calendar: you will see that once with February, the winter season is almost finished. Nevertheless, spring won’t come before one special date: 14th of February, the day when the whole world falls in love and people celebrate the most popular holiday, “Valentine’s Day”, according to the belief that Saint Valentine is the lovers’ protector. But what about 24th of February? Does it tell you anything? Because to us, the Romanians, it does. This is the day when we are celebrating our own Valentine’s Day and we call it “Dragobete’s Day”. So, in order to justify the presence of our article in this travel magazine, we invite you, dear reader, to travel with us and to be part of the following journey of words, beyond time and space, allowing you to discover the way that Romanians used to love and celebrate love in the past and today. Forget about Saint Valentine for the moment and meet Dragobete, your tour guide in today’s journey. Do not be worry, you don’t need a passport or visa (most of all if you’re a European citizen, your ID should be enough), you don’t have to be older than 18, there is no dress code, not even an umbrella is required (we have made all the proper arrangements). Who knows, maybe if you pay attention and you respect the tradition exactly, you will find your special one here.

So, if you’re ready, we shall begin…

In Romania it is believed that Dragobete is a Dacian God, protector of love, joy and fertility, similar to Eros, the Greek God and Cupid. It seems that he is the son of Dochia, a mean women symbolizing the cold winter in Romanian folklore. The day when we celebrate him is an early spring day not by accident, being the time when birds begin to find a mate. There is a belief that birds got engaged then and their nuptial dances probably inspired people who felt that spring time, a time of rebirth for the entire nature, is also the time for young love.

In some parts of Romania, single women used to wake up in the morning to gather the last snow they found and then melted it down. It is said that the water obtained this way was going to be used for beauty treatments during the year but also for love rituals. The water was very carefully kept, believing that it had magical powers. If they happened to not find any snow, women had to gather water from rain or springs.

After this, the young girls and boys from the village community used to get dressed in their so called “Sunday clothes” and meet together in the center of the village or in front of the church. From here, the young people used to dance and sing heading at the same time to the forest and looking for early snowdrops or other spring flowers which had magical powers for love spells. If it was windy or rainy, they used to all meet at their homes and play games, tell stories, etc.

Starting with midday, young girls used to start running back home from the forest and, on the way back, all the boys were trying to reach the one they liked. If they were fast enough to catch the wanted girl, they would steal a kiss from her. This kiss in front of the community was the symbol of their engagement and their love. In many cases, these engagements turned out to be strong, binding the young couples for the rest of their lives. This practice was the one which gave birth to a local saying: “Dragobete kisses the girls”, being sung by the boys during the game of catching the girl they loved.

Thanks to this tradition, Dragobete’s Day was a very important one not only for the young people but also for the whole community. All these superstitions, faithfully respected, were the perfect chance for the villagers to get to know even from that day which were the future weddings they would need to attend later in the autumn. The funny thing about this tradition is the fact that even parents were surprised seeing their sons and daughters’ preferences but, as the saying goes: “Love is blind”, you cannot fight the feeling.

Later, in the evening, all the people of all ages; single or couples, used to participate in a local traditional dance called the “hora” to celebrate in the proper way this joyful God of love, Dragobete.

In this happy atmosphere, allow me to continue telling you some other customs related to this holiday.

For instance, and now I am convinced that all the girls will like this, men shouldn’t hurt women, not even argue with them otherwise they would have bad luck through the year. Sorry, guys… after all, tradition is tradition, no matter what, right?

Also, on Dragobete’s Day, one cannot work (the field, in the house, weave, sew). It was forbidden to sacrifice the animals from the homesteads and women used to feed them with the best food.

According to the local superstitions, people who would participate in this celebration would be protected against sickness for the entire year and women should see a man in order not to remain single all year long.

Unfortunately, all these traditions related to the Romanian genuine love celebration are not very popular among Romanian people today. Even though, this holiday is quite old, we have started to give more importance to it only recently, once we found out about Valentine’s Day and adopted it, little by little, along with the other countries from America and Europe.

Today we are celebrating love on the 14th of February, just like the other people in the world, giving gifts to our loved ones, cards and flowers, being quite common to see young lovers going out for a movie or a candle-light dinner with their valentine. Nevertheless, thanks to marketing promotions, the Romanians have not forgotten entirely their own love celebration, about their own God of Love and have taken advantage of this fact to celebrate their feelings with their loved ones twice in February.

Also, in the cities, urban love legends have started to appear. For example, it is said that if you want to find out if your love will be strong, you have to go with your loved one to Bucharest Mask Theatre and to shut together two locks on the fence and then throw the keys in the nearby lake. After a while, returning to this place, if you find the locks in their initial position, it means that your love will defeat time and any other obstacle, as well. Maybe we will talk about this custom in another article in a future number of “I Love Romania” magazine.

So, if during this journey you have found your loved one, now you know how to celebrate your love properly. If not, you can always try again next year.

About the author:
Valentina is a young lady who works as travel agent. She enjoys the nature, hiking trips or biking rides. Beside these she likes to read a lot.

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