Valentine’s Day vs. Dragobete

February 9, 2010 at 1:35 PM 2 comments

We are just a few steps away from Valentine’s Day. This day of February 14 is considered to be the holiday of love and friendship, the day when people share their love and affection.

As you may know, it’s a very common holiday held in many countries.

During the last years, Romanian people adopted this holiday, even though there are people who still consider it a superficial and commercial holiday.

Our national day of love is Dragobete, which is celebrated on February 24. “Dragobete” is supposed to be the son of Baba Dochia, a handsome tempestuous young man also called Birds Fiancé. On this day birds begin to build their nests and mate. His name is composed of the word “drag” witch means “dear”, word also found in “dragoste” (“love”).

“Dochia ill-treats her daughter-in-law by sending her to pick up berries in the forest at the end of February. God appears to the girl as an old man and helps her in her task. When Dochia sees the berries, she thinks that spring has come back and leaves for the mountains with her son and her goats. She is dressed with twelve lambskins, but it rains on the mountain and the skins get soaked and heavy. Dochia has to get rid of the skins and when frost comes she perishes from the cold with her goats. Her son freezes to death with a piece of ice in his mouth as he was playing the flute.

Another version of this story is that the son of Baba Dochia marries with a girl against her will. Angry with her son’s decision, she sends her daughter in law to wash some black wool in the river and tells her not to come back until the wool has turned white. The girls tries to wash it, but the wool would not change color. In despair and with her hands frozen from the cold water of the river, the girl starts crying, thinking that she would never be able to see her loved husband again. Then Jesus sees her from the sky and feels sorry for her, so he gives her a red flower telling her to wash the wool with that. As soon as she washes the wool as told by Jesus, it turns white so the girl happily returns home. When Baba Dochia hears about her story, she gets angry and thinks spring has come, since the man (who the girls had not recognized as being Jesus)was able to offer her a flower. She leaves for the mountains dressed in twelve coats. As the weather changes fast on the mountain, she starts throwing away her coats, one by one, until she is left with no coats. But as soon as she drops her last coat, the weather changes again and Baba Dochia is frozen on the mountain.” (source: wikipedia)

The first days of March,  from 1 to 9, are supposed to be Baba Dochia’s coats. Women used to pick a day out of these 9 beforehand, and if the day turns out to be fair, they’ll be fair in their old days, and if the day turns out to be cold, they’ll turn bitter when older.

On this day, symbolic engagements are also made  for the next year with the person you like or even engagements for those who intend to get married. Women used to touch a man outside the village in order to be liked the rest of the year.

“Dragobete” is considered the first day of spring, when boys and girls gather vernal flowers, especially snowdrops, and sing together. Girls used to run back to the village, custom named “zburătorit” (“a zbura” = “to fly”) and boys chased after them. If a boy caught a girl and the girl liked him, she would kiss him in front of everyone, kiss that would seal their engagement for the next year. Maidens used to collect the snow that still lies on the ground, named “fairy’s snow” and melt it, using the water in magic potions. Those who take part in Dragobete customs are supposed to be protected from illness for the rest of the year.

In my opinion, I don’t like Valentine’s Day. It’s just another holiday brought from American people, a day when speculators try to make more profit. You may think that this isn’t a bad thing but after seeing all the kiosks and shops filled with all those kitsch things, you’ll change your mind about it.I think that love is something you should share every day with the person you love, not just in a day like this when merchandisers try to sell all kind of stuffs. Why do we need so many presents to show our love? Are those presents that important for us?

Every country has it’s own traditions and customs and I want to celebrate the day of love after my own tradition, with the person I love, without expensive presents or plush stuffed animals.  Just me, him and the flames of our love…


Entry filed under: Romania, Traditional customs. Tags: , , , , , .

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