British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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Feb. 13.]                   st. valentine's eve.                             99
little sport often ends in love. There is another kind of Valentine, which is the first young man or woman that chance throws in your way in the street, or elsewhere, on that day.
In some places, says Hone (Every Day Book, vol. i. p. 226), at this time, and more particularly in London, the lad's Valentine is the first lass he sees in the morning, who is not an inmate of the house; the lass's Valentine is the first youth she sees.
Gay mentions this usage on St. Valentine's Day; he makes a rustic housewife remind her good man—
' I early rose just at the break of day, Before the sun had chas'd the stars away; A-field I went, amid the morning dew To milk my kine (for so should house-wives do% Thee first I spied, and the first swain we see, In spite of Fortune shall our true-love be."
Shakespeare bears witness to the custom of looking for your Valentine, or desiring to be one, through poor Ophelia's singing:
" Good morrow ! His St. Valentine's day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine !"
At Ashborne the following custom is observed on Valen­tine's Eve. When a young woman wishes to divine who her future husband is to be, she goes into the churchyard at midnight, and as the clock strikes twelve commences running round the church, repeating without intermission:
I sow hempseed, hempseed I sow, He that loves me best Come and after me mow."
Having thus performed the circuit of the church twelve times without stopping, the figure of her lover is supposed to appear and follow her.—Jour. Arch. Assoc. 1852. vol. vii. p. 209.
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