starstuff Play with poetry
I know Valentines Day has been and gone, but I loved this essay about its history and folklore by the British Folklore Society.
In the 1660s, Samuel Pepys’s diaries frequently refer to another form of the custom. Families and friends would gather on Valentine’s Eve for a party during which they would write their names on pieces of paper, and so draw lots for a pretended sweetheart. On the feast itself, and for a few days thereafter, the ‘valentines’ were expected to flirt and flatter one another, and the men would give the women presents, such as embroidered gloves or silk stockings. These gifts themselves were sometimes called ‘valentines’. Pepys and his circle also knew the idea that the first person seen that day would be one’s destined valentine; he records that in 1662 his wife walked about with her hand over her eyes to avoid seeing some workmen who were in the house.
In Norfolk in the later eighteenth century, Parson James Woodforde used to give a penny to every child under fourteen in his parish who could say ‘Good morrow Valentine’ on the right day. There is also a Norfolk custom, still known, that parents should leave a present for their own children on the doorstep; this is alleged to be a parcel from ‘Jack Valentine’, ‘Mr Valentine’, or ‘Old Father Valentine’ – who, naturally, has vanished.