Well folks, I’d be sorely remiss if I didn’t wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day!
Once again this year I’ve noticed the strange schizophrenia around this holiday. On one hand the mall is emblazoned with pink and red signs about the holiday with a ton of special products for sale, including giant overstuffed heart-shaped pillows. Just about every bar and club is having a Valentine’s party and certainly many couples are exchanging chocolates and other gifts today.
On the other hand, outside of the mall there’s almost no mention of Valentine’s Day whatsoever. There certainly are no V-Day gifts on display anywhere I’ve seen in the downtown stores. Older Romanians are taking no more notice of this day than they would May 5.
And yet theoretically this holiday is based around the Christian Saint Valentine who was an Easterner and definitely a person venerated in the Romanian Orthodox Church. Except that his feast day is July 6, not February 14.
And, just like every year, there is a general lamentation in Romania as Valentine’s Day (the February 14 cards and chocolates holiday) overshadows the chthonic holiday of Dragobete, which occurs on February 24 and is thus inconveniently scheduled as far as the mall is concerned.
There are a lot of stories about what Dragobete means, where it came from, whether the name itself is Dacian or Serbian and even how long it’s been celebrated in Romania (some people say less than 150 years). Certainly in some parts of Romania it’s celebrated on other days (sometimes as late as March 25).
Regardless of all that, Dragobete is a spring/fertility festival that also combines some matchmaking. There are even some customs of using zăpada zânelor (something like “fairy snow”, meaning the last bits of melting snow) to make powerful love potions and the like. In various villages and rural places, they will have their own customs and ways in which they celebrate this holiday.
When I was a kid (in America), Valentine’s Day was more about making cards (called “Valentines”) for people. The chocolates, roses and all the rest were much less important.
Whether today means something to you in the “romantic” sense, whether you prefer to wait until February 24 (or later) or whether you don’t give a flip about either, I wish you much happiness in your relationships! :D