Valentine’s Day or Dragobete? Although “Dragobete” is an authentic Romanian celebration, deeply rooted in ancient tradition, in our days there is the tendency for more and more Romanians to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which became the international celebration of love.
The history of the two holidays
The Dragobete is celebrated on the 24th February, date that overlaps in the orthodox calendar with the Finding of The Head of St John the Baptist. In the past, Dragobete was celebrated on the 1st of March, because Dragobete is considered to be the handsome and seductive son of Old Dochia (Romanian mythology) and the bringer of a new season- spring.
The Dragobete, “The Dashing” or the “Fiancé of Birds” as he is also called, is a character inherited from the old dacians and he is considered to be the God of love, youth and joy, later turned into the protector of young people and their love.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the entire world on the 14th of February, as a holiday originated in the USA that become notorious lately, because of extensive media exposure.
Valentine’s Day is rooted in an old Roman holiday, Lupercalia, which later turned into Saint Valentine. Valentine was a priest from Rome, and Claudius the 2nd, the emperor at the time, ordered the soldiers not to get engaged or married, because he thought that would keep them away from going to war. Priest Valentine broke the law of the emperor and officiated a few marriages in secret, which got him arrested and sentenced to death. The priest was decapitated on the 14th of February, which was the eve of the Lupercalia holiday. He was declared a saint and Rome moved the holiday from the 15th of February to the 14th. Subsequently, the 14th of February become Valentine’s Day as it is known today.
Customs and Superstitions on Dragobete
-Dragobete is a holiday everybody should celebrate. On this day, young people wear their most beautiful clothes, meet in the village and if the weather permits, go into the forest to pick spring’s first flowers, with which they adorn their icons or they use them for charms. If the weather is gray, rainy or it snows, young people gather at someone’s house, where they start the party and diverse games.
-At lunch hour, the girls run to the village and the boys try to catch them. If one of the girls took a shine to the boy that’s after her, they would kiss, symbol of a future engagement and the night of the engagement would be later announced to the entire community. They say all people participating in celebrating the event will be lucky in love year round and sheltered from disease and trouble.
-As with Epiphany’s Day (Boboteaza) they say girls put basil under their pillow to dream of their chosen one.
-On Dragobete strong friendships are made, vows are said and a superstition says that to have love, boys and girls must touch a person of the opposite sex from another village.
-Another tradition followed by girls is to gather the snow that didn’t melt or rain water and use it to cleanse their face and hair, as it is considered to make them more beautiful and more loveable.
-The elders from the village pay close attention to birds and animals as it is forbidden to sacrifice them on this day.
-On Dragobete, men weren’t allowed to fight or upset the women, because they will be unlucky in love for the rest of the year.
-On this day on which the Finding of the Head of St John the Baptist is also celebrated, people interrupt any activity safe for cleaning the house, which was thought to bring growth and freshness.
-It’s not good to cry on Dragobete, because the tears shed on this day will bring troubles and misfortune.
Customs and Superstitions on Valentine’s Day
-They say that at first the celebration that honors love was the celebration of celibates. On this day, girls would hide in the dark alleys of the village, hoping to be discovered by single men. If this happened, the next step was marriage.
-On lovers’ day, girls would eat bizarre foods to help them dream of the “one”.
-In the Middle Ages, girls and boys would do a raffle and pick a name out of a bowl that they kept up their sleeve for the entire week.
-The first name you hear on Valentine’s Day is the name of your future husband/wife. Also, if you find a glove on this day, the one who lost it will be your husband.
-If a sparrow flies over you, you will marry a poor man, but be very happy. If you see a goldfinch, you will marry a very rich man.
-On the morning of 14th of February it’s a custom to drink holy water and the faithful choose to eat only once a day.
-Over 220 000 people choose to get married every year on Valentine’s Day.