Dragobete, the traditional lovers’ day in Romania, is celebrated on the 24th of February, ten days after the Western European and American Valentine’s Day.
The Dragobete traditional story is that, clothed with holiday suits, young men and women meet in front of the church and go searching the woods and meadows for spring flowers. They sit around the fire on the hills of the village and talk. At noon, the girls run to the village, each followed by a boy who had fallen for them. If the boy is fast and reaches the girl of his choice and if she likes him, she kisses him in front of everyone.
This tradition started the expression “Dragobete kisses the girls!”.
There are a number of Dragobete customs in rural areas, many of which are not kept by modern Romanians anymore. On this day, no animals are sacrificed because it would ruin the point of mating. In the old days, single women used to gather the last snow, and the water resulted from the melted snow was used throughout the year for various beauty treatments and love spells.
The tradition says that men should not hurt women, nor argue with them, otherwise they will not do well the whole year. Youngsters believe that on this day they should be joyous and respect the holiday, so that they can be in love the whole year.
Modern Romanians embraced Valentine’s Day in the early ‘90s. More recently, a new movement has emerged, that of celebrating the traditional holiday instead of what is seen as the commercial imported celebration.