Crone’s Corner – Be My Valentine
An old custom of drawing the name of one’s Valentine. Supposedly young women put their names on slips of paper
and placed those slips in a box. Each young man drew a slip and the two became valentines, often for as much as a year.
Sometimes, of course, such arrangements ended in a betrothal. Unless the drawing was “rigged,” however, not everyone would have been anxious to submit to “chance.” Nevertheless, the custom was apparently widespread even as late as the 17th century. A related custom held that the first unmarried person encountered on Valentine’s Day became one’s Valentine.
It has long been the tradition of giving gifts or love tokens on Valentine’s Day. Originally, the man and woman exchanged
presents, but by the later 17th century, it was much more common for the man alone to give the gift. For a while in history at
least, one’s Valentine was not necessarily one’s sweetheart (or one’s spouse) and even married men and women could have Valentines. In societies where names were drawn or where Valentines were chosen or challenged (any man or woman could claim an unspoken-for person as his or her Valentine), the celebration, and gift-giving that accompanied it, sometimes proved troublesome and often expensive.
Although some Valentine presents were quite costly, others were more moderate. Gloves were a common gift for a young woman as were, curiously enough, garters. In an age when reticence or modesty were mixed with suggestiveness, one writer sent along the following verse:
“Blush not, my fair, at what I send,
‘Tis a fond present from a friend.
These garters, made of silken twine,
Were fancied by your Valentine.
Hundreds of years ago in England, many children dressed up as adults on Valentine’s Day. They went singing from home to home. One verse they sang was:
Good morning to you, valentine;
Curl your locks as I do mine—
Two before and three behind.
Good morning to you, valentine.
In Wales wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favorite decorations on the spoons. The decoration meant, “You unlock my heart!”
If a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a sailor . If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire.
If you found a glove on the road on Valentine’s Day, your future beloved will have the other missing glove.
Christian customs combined to form some of the enduring traditions. One was that the first person you saw on Valentine’s Day would be your Valentine. We know the custom was well established in Shakespeare’s time, for Ophelia wanted to be “betime” at Hamlet’s window. She sang:
“Good morrow! `tis St. Valentine’s Day
All in the morning betime.
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine!”
Crayons” or pencils (lipsticks not invented until the 20th century) were made …by grinding down alabaster calcinate or plaster of Paris into a powder, coloured appropriately, mixed into a paste, rolled into shape and dried in the sun. Face powder could be obtained from ground alabaster, but starch, prepared with perfume would do very well……..
(“Powder and Paint a history of the Englishwoman’s Toilet – Neville Williams)
English folklore suggests that you may obtain another’s affection if you take an orange, prick it all over with a needle and then sleep with it in your left armpit. Give it to the object of your affections to eat and he or she will become enamored of you.
Superstitions abound regarding the first bird seen on St Valentine’s Day by a girl, for it was said to indicate what sort of man her husband would be. For instance, a blackbird meant a clergyman or priest, a goldfinch (or any yellow bird for that matter) a rich man, a crossbill was an argumentative, mean man and doves and bluebirds were good and happy men respectively. However, should she see or hear a woodpecker on Valentine’s Day she would never marry.
St. Valentine’s Day with all of its colorful love was taken to the New World by the English settlers and lost none of it romantic appeal through the journey. The deeply rooted superstitions continued, in fact, flowered, in the new environment. An extract from a young lady’s diary written in 1754 describes some of the practices:
Last Friday was Valentine’s Day and the night before I got five bay – leaves, and pinned four of them to the four corners of my pillow, and the fifth to the middle; and then if I dreamt of my sweetheart, we should be married before the year is out. But to make it sure, I boiled an egg hard and took out the yolk, and filled it with salt; and when I went to bed ate it, shell and all, without speaking or drinking after it. We also wrote our lovers names upon bits of paper, and rolled them up in day, and put them into water; and the first that rose up was to be our valentine.
Write the names of prospective lovers on slips of paper, roll them in clay balls and drop them in a bowl of water. The first to rise to the surface will be your valentine.
Write the names of prospective lovers on pieces of paper, put them into a container, then draw one out and say: “Thou art my love and I am thine, I draw ______ for my Valentine.” The lover you chose will be yours by the following year.