The Romanian tradition of Dragobete (pronounced DRAH-go-BEH-teh), held on February 24, is a celebration of springtime, good cheer, and love. A daylong holiday involving birds, flowers, and romance, it’s rooted in old stories and ancient village customs, though it has taken on some modern urban twists as well.
Dragobete takes its name from the Romanian god of love, who fell head over heels for a girl and married her without the blessing of his mother, Romania’s legendary Baba Dochia. In one story, his angry mother sets Dragobete’s wife the impossible task of washing black wool until it turns white to keep him away from her. Dragobete’s wife, determined to finish so she can see Dragobete again, keeps trying for so long that her love impresses a magical stranger, who gives her a red flower that turns the wool white so she can be reunited with her husband.
Birds and Betrothals
Dragobete is sometimes called “the time when birds are betrothed,” because in Romania, many birds build their nests at the end of February to get ready for eggs and chicks in the spring. During the holiday, unmarried people gather snowdrops together—these wildflowers are usually among the first to bloom—hoping that they, too, might find someone to make a home with. They talk late into the night around bonfires, with the evening sometimes ending in public declarations of love.
Snow and Strawberries
Looking good is important on Dragobete, and it doesn’t stop with dressing nicely. In some regions of Romania, it’s traditional for young women to wash their faces with spring snow to bring out their beauty. In others, the dew from wild strawberries—another early blooming plant—is the natural face wash of choice.
Dragobete is an old holiday, and many of its traditions come from rural village life. But modern urban Romanians have put their own spin on it, too. Among this group, it’s sometimes said that stepping on your partner’s foot on Dragobete means you’ll be the one to lead the relationship for the next year!
Interested in celebrating Dragobete with your kids this year? Try making this adorable recipe for chocolate-dipped strawberry birds!
Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry Birds
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 ½ teaspoons canola oil
Wash the strawberries, leaving the stems attached, then dry them.
While the strawberries dry, melt the chocolate in the microwave. Heat in 30-second increments to avoid burning the chocolate.
Mix the melted chocolate (too hot for kids to handle safely) with the canola oil until they’re well combined.
Make sure the melted chocolate is cool enough for kids to handle safely. Show them a picture of the finished birds so that they can see where to leave space for the birds’ stomachs before they start dipping. You might want to demonstrate by dipping the first strawberry yourself.
Place a long sheet of parchment paper on your work surface. Kids will set the dipped strawberries on this.
Dip one strawberry at a time into the melted chocolate. Be sure to hold the strawberry at an angle when you dip, so that the chocolate doesn’t cover the bird’s “stomach.” Put each strawberry on the parchment paper once it’s dipped.
Before the chocolate sets, gently press two candy eyes into the chocolate near the tip of each strawberry so that it looks like the picture.
Gently press the edge of a yellow M&M into each strawberry just below the eyes so that it looks like a beak.
Let the chocolate harden; it usually takes about 30 minutes. Enjoy your sweet treat!