One of the most beautiful Romanian legends tells the story of a handsome boy named Dragobete. He is the son of Baba Dochia, an old lady with an amazing history as well. Dragobete was half man and half God, immortal and handsome. Due to his endless kindness, he was chosen – according to some sources, by Virgin Mary – to be the Guardian of Love.
Photo by Dia Somogyi
Many of the old folk stories present him helping the young girls to get along with their future, often catty, mother-in-lows or helping the young boys to be brave and confident when asking the hand of their beloved one. Other stories even present him not only as the God of Love but also as the Messenger of the Spring. Celebrated on the 24th of February, Dragobete is also known in the folklore as the “Head of Spring” or the “Head of Summer”. That is because the weather begins this day to soften.
Dragobete is, more or less, the Romanian version of the Roman’s tricksy Cupid or of the Greek’s charming god Eros. That is still, slightly different in terms of actions. Dragobete did not make people fall in love nor interfere in their amorous life. He just took care to remember humans to never stop celebrating love. More than that, he is considered the symbol of universal love and, according to ancient beliefs, on this particular day the birds find their match and start to make their nest. This is way, Dragobete is also known as the “Bird’s fiancé”.
Photo by Marius Turc
Dragobete – old traditions
Despite the great success of Valentine’s Day, Romania seems to be quite attached to its traditions so Valentine and Dragobete “learned” how to get along. Some celebrate only the Valentine’s Day, others only Dragobete and those most in love, both. But Dragobete is not just about roses, chocolate, heart-shaped jewelry and love messages. All this crazy haste for demonstrating love is not really Dragobete’s type of celebrating it! So, according to Dragobete, there are some old traditions that must be kept in order to be loved and appreciated all year long.
First of all, you’re not supposed to cry because this day tears apparently will bring you sorrow and sadness. The men must not annoy women if they want to have a good and loving year. People must in general joke and have fun, the lovers must kiss each other and be tender. Also, people must not sew or work, although, it’s advisable to clean the house. Sacrificing animals are strictly forbidden because it spoils their mating ritual. Those single must spend the day with friends,meet and hug at least one person of the opposite sex.
These being said, it’s obvious that in Romania, February is indeed the Month of Love and Dragobete. After many years of oblivion during communism, the celebration is rapidly recovering his rightful place remembering people to never stop loving in the old-fashioned Romanian way.