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Dragobete in Romania: Where Romance and Magic Intertwine

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Nearly every country has a holiday dedicated to dragoste (love) and romance. In the U.S. and other Western nations, this manifests as Valentine’s Day; in South Korea, there are twelve separate love days celebrated each year! And in Romania, there is the traditional celebration of Dragobete Day (often called Romanian Valentine’s Day).

This is a unique holiday centered on romance and the beginning of primăvară (spring). In this article, you’ll learn how this holiday got started, what celebrations look like today, and more useful Dragobete information.

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1. What is Dragobete?

Two Heart-Shaped Balloons Floating in the Sky

In Romania, February 24 marks the unofficial beginning of spring as well as the annual love celebration called Dragobete. This traditional holiday lost its popularity during the communist era, but has more recently resurfaced to be celebrated alongside Valentine’s Day. Perhaps due to the holiday’s time missing in action, no two regions within Romania celebrate it exactly the same way. 

While some people do celebrate Valentine’s Day in Romania, many favor Dragobete for its connection to tradition and its fresh perspective on love and romance. 

According to the Dragobete legend, there’s an old woman named Baba Dochia. She gave birth to Dragobete, who is most often depicted as being half-human and half-angel. Romanians view him as being not only the protector of love, but also a guardian of sorts to birds. These beliefs are reflected in every aspect of the holiday, from its focus on romance to its many springtime activities.

Around this time, many birds begin to build their cuib (nest) in preparation for breeding and laying eggs in the coming spring. Some people consider this symbolic of how men and women should also be ‘nesting’ and preparing to start a family. As such, this holiday is regarded as the perfect time to express romantic interest in a potential partner—especially if you were too shy to do so throughout the last year! 

    → Though few things are sweeter than a springtime romance, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the season even if you’re single. Check out our list of the Top 15 Things To Do Over Spring Break. 😉

2. Dragobete Traditions and Customs

A Man Kissing His Girlfriend on the Forehead

Throughout Romania, Dragobete is associated with a number of traditions, some of which vary by region. 

The most common tradition is for single men and women to go into the fields together and gather springtime flowers. Afterwards, the men and women may spend time together as a group, lighting fires atop the hills and talking with each other until late in the evening. After this, each man chases one of the women back to the village; if the woman has feelings for him, she will allow the man to kiss her. Depending on the region, the people of the village consider this a type of logodnă (engagement), where the man and woman publicly express their love for each other prior to marriage. 

Another Romanian Dragobete tradition is for women to use the springtime snow to wash their faces; this is thought to make them more beautiful and their skin purer. Young women also eat salty bread baked by elderly women, which is thought to make them thirsty before bed. They then place some busuioc (basil) underneath their pillow; they will then have a vis (dream) about their future soţ (husband), who brings them water to drink. 

Due to the nature of this holiday, people are also advised to treat each other well and to have a sunny disposition. For partners, this might mean buying gifts for each other or spending quality time together. For those who are single, this means not complaining or being difficult. 


3. Fascinating Correlations

Spring Flowers

Earlier, we mentioned that the Dragobete holiday is partially based on mythology surrounding Baba Dochia and her son Dragobete. Did you know that Bulgaria has a similar mythological character, named Baba Marta

Like Baba Dochia, Baba Marta is associated with the coming of spring. Bulgarians celebrate their springtime festival throughout the month of March. Rather than focusing on romance, however, the Bulgarian holiday is celebrated by wearing red-and-white bracelets to keep evil away—and to keep the often-grouchy Baba Marta in a good mood! 

4. Romanian Vocabulary to Know for Dragobete

A Bird’s Nest with Eggs in It

Here’s the essential vocabulary you’ll need for Dragobete in Romania (or really, any time you want to impress your Romanian partner). 

  • Pernă (Pillow) – noun, feminine
  • Soţ (Husband) – noun, masculine
  • Pasăre (Bird) – noun, feminine
  • Primăvară (Spring) – noun
  • Floare (Flower) – noun, feminine
  • Sărut (Kiss) – noun, neutral
  • Vis (Dream) – noun, neutral
  • Dragoste (Love) – noun, feminine
  • Fată (Girl) – noun, feminine
  • Busuioc (Basil) – noun, masculine
  • Stol (Flock) – noun, neutral
  • Cuib (Nest) – noun, neutral
  • Logodnă (Engagement) – noun, feminine

To hear and practice the pronunciation of each word, head over to our Lovers’ Day vocabulary list! 

Final Thoughts

Dragobete Day in Romania, while similar to Valentine’s Day, certainly has its unique aspects. 

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day in your country, or another romantic holiday? What are your favorite ways to celebrate? We look forward to hearing from you! 

We hope you enjoyed learning about this fun, romantic holiday with us and that you’re curious to learn more about Romanian culture! 

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