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Moldova, Peace Corps

Dragobete, Valentine’s Day and Martisor

A young student singing during a pause in the contest.

A young student singing during a pause in the contest.

Valentine’s Day and Dragobete

In Moldova, almost every holiday is celebrate twice – from first (Western) Christmas and  second (Orthodox) Christmas, to the two New Years celebrations and this tradition extends to Valentine’s Day as well.

In Moldova, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14th, in similar ways to its celebration in the US – couples exchange flowers, chocolates or take their significant others to dinner.  One week later however, Moldova has a holiday called Dragobete, on February 24th, which is a holiday that also celebrates love.

Dragobete has some interesting traditions associated with it, such as if a boy catches a girl’s hand then they will become a couple – meaning girls are on the run from anyone they don’t want catching their hands. There is also a tradition associated with this holiday of stealing available girl’s gates (from their homes) as a way of courting them.

On February 25th, I celebrated Dragobete by being a part of a panel of judges at a contest at a local school, called Mr. and Ms. Cosbuc (Cosbuc is the name of the school). This contest was similar to a beauty contest except that it featured couples from each class in grades 10, 11 and 12.

(In Moldova the high schools’ classes are organized by grade and form, either A or B and they attend all classes with their class.)

These couples created videos, performed skits and songs and competed in trivia for the title of Mr. and Ms. Cosbuc. Judging was fun – the performances were really interesting and funny, but having to choose a winner was hard. I was invited to judge by a youth from the school, who was organizing this contest.

When I arrived at the event, I was told that I would give a speech during the event. When the time came for me to speak, I was pretty nervous – I hadn’t practiced anything to say and speaking Romanian to an auditorium full of adults and youth, was scarier than I anticipated.

After every sentence I said, (there were only four) the entire audience applauded the fact that I was speaking Romanian, trust me, the content of my ‘speech’ was not impressive. After I sat down the Director of the school’s only comment was, “Did you hear her Romanian? And she’s only been studying seven months!”

My takeaways from this are that there are a lot of talented and funny youth in Balti, that I need to work on my Romanian speeches for events like these, to have one practiced and ready, that I can recite less nervously and that celebrating holidays twice is a bit of Moldovan culture that I should bring back to the states with me.

The participants sharing a dance.

The participants sharing a dance.

The participants in Mr. and Ms. Cosbuc

The participants in Mr. and Ms. Cosbuc

Martisor

Martisor is a celebration of the beginning of spring, celebrated on March 1st. The holiday is celebrated in Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria. For this holiday it is traditional to give friends, family, co-workers, a gift of a martisor, which is a red and white string tied together, into a bow, although some are a little more fancy and have a bell, charm or something else attached to them. It is also traditional to give small spring gifts or martisor bracelets (red and white).

Traditionally you wear this pin, close to your heart for the entire month of March. It is believed that this will make you healthy and strong for the year to come and at the end of the month you tie this to the branches of a tree and make a wish. My host mother gave me a beautiful Martisor on the first, a co-worker gave me some flower earrings for spring and another co-worker gave me a white bracelet with red stones for the holiday.

To celebrate Martisor, I attended a concert and dance recital at the Casa de cultura, (The culture house) on March 1st. I was invited to this performance by a high school student who was in one of the dance performances. The concert overall was excellent, I was especially impressed by the dancers, most of which were under 15 and all of which were really exceptional – not just for their age, but in general.

On Sunday afternoon,  attended another concert, this time at the National Theater, which is at the center of town. I attended this concert with a youth group of volunteers here. The concert featured a classical music group from Israel who had a violinist as a front man. The violinist was excellent and the group actually did a great show, that kept me fully engaged, even without any singing or dancing. (Usually classical music concerts are not my favorite.)

Both the Casa de Cultura and the National Theater have shows and performances going on all week to celebrate Martisor. While there is still some snow or the remnants of it on the ground, it has begun to get warmer here.

Acordian players at the Martisor performance.

Acordian players at the Martisor performance.

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