Dragobete – The day when all birds find their mate

In this time of the year, a time of renewal and joy, traditionally, Romanians celebrate the transition from Winter to Spring. On the 24th of February, the day of Dragobete, or the day when all birds find their mate, we celebrate love. All cultures have a specific ritual regarding love, but nowadays, with globalisation, some of them are starting to disappear or to be absorbed by Valentine’s day.

Romanian culture was developed in the villages. Because of this, many traditions are closely related to the shifts of the seasons and the natural cycle of birth and rebirth.

Snowdrops – a symbol of the rebirth of nature.

Did you know?

All love related customs in Romania use spring flowers and not roses?

Roses are considered the flowers of the ancestors and used as an offering to them at the tombs. We even have a custom for celebrating the forefathers, called Rusalii Rosaria (from lat. rose).

The ritual

In ancient times, on the day of Dragobete, unmarried young men and women went to the forest.

The ritual begins by starting a fire (as a reminder to the strength and protection of the Sun) and, while the men guard the fire, the women go into the forest and pick the first spring flowers (as a reminder of the rebirth of nature). There is lots of songs and joy in this activity.

Crocus heuffelianus (white striped) – subspecies – early spring flower

After they pick flowers, the customs dictate that the women should run towards the village, a custom called zburatorit (aprox. translation: flight). The men start chasing the women (similar to bird courting) and, if a woman likes a man, she lets herself get caught.

Now follows the most important part of the ritual. If the young woman gives the man the flowers she had piked in the forest, the man can kiss the girl in plain sight of the village – saying Dragobete saruta fetele! (Dragobete kisses the girls!). This is the first acknowledgement that they will form a couple – and maybe they will marry in autumn.

The ritual of love that begins with Dragobete continues long after this day with other rituals that are connected to this moment of couple-making and nature rebirth. In the beginning of March there are a series of days for celebrating the relationships: Martisor, Babele and St. George’s Day.

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