Saint Gregory’s Day – the Slovene Valentine’s Day

illustration of two children placing a boat in a river

Many of us celebrated a day for love last month with St Valentine’s Day on 14 February. But in some countries in Europe, there are more days in which to celebrate love. Today, 12 March, in Slovenia, is Saint Gregory’s Day – Gregorjevo – the Slovene Valentine’s Day.

St. Gregory was a sixth-century monk who became Pope. Saint Gregory is said to have made many acts of kindness. Today, Saint Gregory is remembered as the patron saint of schoolchildren and scholars.

Originally, Saint Gregory’s day was celebrated on the first day of spring. With the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, this fell on the 12th of March.

Today is still considered the start of spring. It is said that on this day, birds are joined in wedlock – having found their partner a month before, on Saint Valentine’s Day.

EXPLORE MORE: Who was Saint Valentine?

On this day, people hung baked goods in the trees and bushes. These are left-overs from the birds’ weddings, which children would search for. In another custom from the past, young women would look up at the sky – the first bird they saw would indicate what type of husband they will marry.

Nowadays there is really only one tradition that is still active. Lights are floated down rivers and other bodies of water, since it is the day when Saint Gregory tosses the light into the water.

Watch two videos of Saint Gregory’s Day traditions from 1969 and 2007

Children build miniature boats and houses (called ‘gregorčki’) for the lights and send them downstream.

EXPLORE MORE: Customs and traditions across Europe in our exhibition Celebrations in Europe

By Tina Enci, National and University Library, Slovenia

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Gregorjev večer, Peter Žmitek, National and University Library of Slovenia, Public Domain

One thought on “Saint Gregory’s Day – the Slovene Valentine’s Day”

  1. Places with a long-standing tradition of crafts and trade believed that St. Gregory “tosses the lamp into the water” as the days have become longer and artificial light is no longer needed in workshops. Over time, the tradition of crafting lamp-lit miniature boats and houses, so-called “gregorcki”, and sending them off downstream was born. This spectacle takes place on the eve of St. Gregory’s Day. Some of the tiny vessels are veritable pieces of art, and attending the custom is quite the treat. Mostly, they are made by pre-schoolers and school children. To experience the authentic feel of this special festival of light, visit Trzic, Kropa and Kamna Gorica, where it is particularly ingrained in the mentality of the townspeople. However, other places across the country have similar customs. In Ljubljana, the tiny “gregorcki” vessels are sent down the Gradascica Stream which is a tributary of Ljubljanica. The tiny lamps are not only a symbolic ritual, but they also create an atmosphere of romance that you should not miss out.

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