This site is an outcome of the Comenius 2008-2010 multilateral project "European Journey Through Legends".

"Becoming more European does not mean forgetting our national cultural heritage, but sharing it with other European nation".

Dragobete, Romanian Celebration of Love

While Valentine’s Day is mostly related to people (a saint and those he helped) and their actions in the name of love, the Romanian holiday dedicated to love, Dragobete, is strongly connected to nature. Celebrated on February 24th, it is linked to that special time of year when birds build their nests and mate. As the first signs of spring show, nature and man restart the cycle of life and love. What better reason to celebrate? What better reason to sing, dance and kiss girls?

Dragobete, also named Dragomir, is the local counterpart of Roman god Cupid and Greek god Eros. He isn’t however mentioned as a divine creature. He is a positive character, a symbol of pure love, completely opposite to his mother, Dochia. Dochia is said to have been a very cruel mother in law, making a habit of mistreating her daughter in law. She sent her to pick up berries in the month of February, an impossible time of year to find such fruit. God helps the girl in her task fact that leads to a tragedy.

Dochia, believing it was spring already, takes her sheep and her son, Dragobete, up the mountain. Although she carries 12 lambskins in the beginning of her journey, she looses them. The story has two versions here: they either get wet because of the rain or she throws them as it was very warm. Both Dochia and her son freeze to death on the mountain.

However, I like happier myths about who the mother of Dragobete was. One version of the story is of a proud woman, teasing the month of March who then gets even by taking a few days from February. Other stories are of Dochia, sister of Dacian ruler Decebal, who runs away in the mountains to seek refuge from the Roman Emperor Trajan. She disguises herself as a shepherd, but looses her lambskin and freezes. She is then metamorphosed into a stream and her sheep are turned into flowers.

Regardless of its origin, the myth of Dragobete speaks of pristine love, of nature’s rituals translated into people’s life, of new life cycles and of being reborn. It is also said that couples are watching out for which one of them is stepping over the others foot. It is believed that he or she will then take the lead in the couple. 

In the past, on the Dragobete day, the villages  began to play: every boy chasing a girl , she get caught by one she love and even engaged to him. Thus, "Dragobete kissing girls" became the well-known saying.

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