9 Weird Ways Our Ancestors Said ‘I Love You’

We’re often try to think up the most outlandish ways to say those three magic words. Whether it be by hiding a silver necklace in a three-tiered meringue, renting a plane with a smoke machine to write your lover’s name across the sky, or something equally as cheesy…. Originality. Is. Key.

That’s not to say that our ancestors didn’t suffer from this very issue too. With the amount of strange and quirky traditions they thought up, it looks as though professing one’s love was a particularly difficult feat.

We looked at some mostly strange, but sometimes sweet traditions of love that our ancestors used to take as gospel. Have a delve into the minds of our ‘romantic’ descendants, maybe there’s something that’ll help you find or woo your crush this Valentine’s Day.

Two birds, one fib

Before a certain Geoffrey Chaucer came along, February 14th wasn’t regarded as a particularly romantic day. But Chaucer sparked the romantic imaginations of many with a verse  in his poem Parlement of Foules:

Was on seynt Valentynes day                           

When every foul comyth there to chese his make        

Translation –

It was on Saint Valentine’s day

When every fowl comes there his mate to take

This little snippet shows how Geoff stated Valentine’s Day was when single birds (or “fowls”) would get together and find their future loves. This sparked the imagination of many and led people to believe that February 14th had some romantic undertones, which ended up being adopted as the romantic Landmark holiday.

A particularly bitter taste

Most of us have sent a Valentine’s card before, usually anonymously, to someone we think is pretty tasty. But there was one particularly cruel tradition which existed for the opposite reason in the 19th century.

Imagine professing your undying love to someone, only to be bitterly rejected. Now imagine that after that humongous gut punch, you receive a personalised letter telling you how much that someone detests the thought of you. Sounds pretty cruel right? This was an actual pastime known as a ‘Vinegar Valentine.’ I certainly wouldn’t like to be on the recieving end of one of those.

Wearing your heart on your sleeve

Many of us have heard of the expression ‘wearing your heart on your sleeve’ meaning someone very open with their emotions. It comes from a sweet 18th century tradition in which a man would wear a paper heart with the name of his crush quite literally on his sleeve, in the hope that this feeling would be reciprocated. Well, all I can say is I tried it with Emma Stone and it didn’t work.

Bundling up close and personal

A questionable tradition from 16th and 17th century Britain, bundling was a way potential couples would be able to get to know each other, quite literally, up close and personal. The couple would be wrapped up tight, or ‘bundled’ in the same bed. Sometimes this was with a ‘bundling board,’ a piece of wood put in-between the couple to prevent any shenanigans.

The idea was to let the curious couple get to know each other in the confines of a nice safe house, but only by having a little natter while keeping wrapped up like celibate croissants.

Rip-off weddings

We see it in all of those mushy-lovey-dovey movies. Weddings are supposedly one of the happiest days of a couple’s life and – for some – ruining it can be likened to murder. That’s what makes this next tradition particularly cruel.

Brides used to be seen as a good luck charm and a sign representing fertility. This being the case, onlookers would try and rip off pieces of the brides dress for good luck often leaving her in tatters. It’s thought that this terrible tradition transformed into a more… sane tradition: tossing a bouquet of flowers into a crowd of hopeful bachelorettes.

A foxy whipping

Before Saint Valentine’s came along, February 13-15th was left for the Roman celebration of Lupercalia. This holiday was not what many of us would consider ‘politically correct.’

Lupercalia was a celebration of fertility as it was thought of as the beginning of ‘mating season.’ Some salacious young Roman men would strip off all of their clothes and run around the streets whipping women with animal skins of recently sacrificed animals. However, the ladies wouldn’t try and fight off the furry slaps. It was believed if they were hit by a flailing hides that it would make them more fertile. Grrr baby?

Keeping your love at bay

This is an ancient English tradition that apparently is still practiced in some places around the world. It was believed that placing five bay leaves under your pillow would evoke dreams of your future lover.

Bay leaves are believed to have certain qualities which help us have vivid and psychedelic dreams. I’m not sure how credible the sources are, but at least if you don’t have strange dreams your pillow will smell like a hearty stew when you wake.

Tube-be or not tube-be

A particularly obscure tradition practiced in 18th century America, some Puritans would use something known as a “courting tube.”

The idea of this was that if you were in a crowded room with your future love hopeful, you would be able to whisper naughty things into their ear unimpeded using the six foot long hollow tube. This would mean you wouldn’t have to deal with the disapproving looks from snooty family members.

How about those sweaty apples

The strangest tradition on the list that derives from Elizabethan era England (1558–1603). The idea was that the interested lady would put a slice of apple under her armpit, dance a jig for a good hour until she’s sweated sufficiently, then hand the even-more-soggy piece to her potential suitor who would munch it down. Yuck.

So, you might count yourself pretty lucky that you haven’t found yourself in one of the periods from past time that required some pretty weird and unappealing traditions. From dresses in tatters to salty apples, which romantic tradition would you bring back this Valentine’s Day?

If you’re more of a gift giver, we’ve got the perfect gift for you. Take a look at our Valentine’s range here.

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