Ever since ancient times, Romanians have celebrated Dragobete on the 24th of February. It is a sort of Valentine's day. This is the time when nature wakes up from her sleep, birds look for places to build their nests, and people, especially the youth, follow nature's course.
A mythological deity similar to Eros or Cupid, the son of Dochia, Dragobete is a handsome man who likes to indulge himself in love affairs. He isn't mild like St. Valentine, but tempestuous like the Dacian god who was thought to celebrate in heaven the marriage of all the animals.
This has later extended to people also, and young people keep the tradition up to this day: boys and girls meet on this special day to make their love last. People believe that birds get engaged on this day.
So the holiday has a quite deep motivation, if we come to think that birds were considered messengers of gods, the Greek word for "bird" meaning "heaven message." Dragobete is also a deity of joy and well-being, prone to giving parties and festivities, which often end up in marriage.
According to the Romanian common belief, those who take part in the festivities are protected against any sickness all year long. So, early in the morning, dressed up in their Sunday best, young people meet in the center of the village or in front of the church.
If the weather is good, they go singing in small groups to the forest, to look for snowdrops or other spring flowers, and if the weather is bad, they gather at one's place to play games and tell stories. On this occasion, young people make symbolic engagements (sometimes followed by real engagements). In the forest, they gather around fires and talk.
The girls pick up flowers that are thought to have miraculous powers, in order to perform special rituals for love magic. Young girls collect fresh snow that they find and turn it into water. The water obtained from the immaculate snow is considered to be a magic love potion, which girls use throughout the whole year.
At lunchtime, girls suddenly start running back to the village. Each boy begins chasing the girl that he likes. If the boy is fast enough and the girl he is chasing likes him back, this chase is followed by a long kiss. This is a playful engagement of the two, meant to last for at least another year.
The village's community is very interested in what happens on this occasion, because at this time of the year they cannot find out what weddings they have to attend in autumn.
In the afternoon they have a great party, where everybody, be it couple or not, dance, sing, and have a good time because it was said that those who didn't have fun on this day, would not be able to find a partner for the rest of the year.
Women touch a man from another village on this day, in order to behave more affectionately for the rest of the year, and they also remember to feed the animals in the courtyard, the birds in the sky, and protect all living creatures. Young men often party in the neighboring villages, in order to have real good summers.
So Dragobete is a holiday of love, full of superstitions and special rituals. It is considered to bear luck for all activities and human actions, not only the small things, but also the big businesses. Farmers believe that Dragobete can help them have a richer year. People do not work on this day, they keep it just like a religious holiday.
They resume their work to cleaning the house and cooking. It is believed that the girls who worked on Dragobete day would be punished by this deity. Even if he sometimes "punished" the disobedient ladies, Dragobete is seen as protector of love, bearing luck to young lovers and young people in general, like a true Romanian Cupid.