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Courtship and wedding customs

April 4, 2010

As promised, I’m going to share a few fascinating things I’ve been reading about the rituals of courting and marriage.

They’re from the book I bought at a charity sale – ‘How Did it Begin’ by R. Brasch first published in 1965.

In the word ‘Wedlock’ the lock isn’t a lock and chain but the Anglo-Saxon for gift, as wed means a promise. Wedlock pledged the gift of the happiness of a man and a woman.

Nearly all courtship rituals can be traced back to early practises designed to ensure the fertility of a union. Kissing is thought to have started because primitive man believed exhaled air had magic power. 

Signing an X for  a kiss began in the Middle Ages when people were illiterate and used an X to sign and would then kiss the parchment to affirm their sincerity, like kissing the Bible to take an oath.

The word ‘Spooning’ to describe courting came for the custom of young men in Wales to carve an elaborate spoon to give as a love token to the girl of their choice in the place of an engagement ring.

Leap year proposals by women to men were a rare chance for women to correct an unjust state of affairs, just as the extra day in a leap year was a topsy-turvy day, a leapt over day in other years. In a time when there was a surplus of women, it was a chance of ensuring they were not left on the shelf.  


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