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. 14.]                  st# valentine's day.                             101
At Swaffham, also, Valentines are sent on this evening. "Watching for a convenient opportunity, the door is slyly opened, and the Valentine attached to an apple or an orange, is thrown in ; a loud rap at the door immediately follows, and the offender taking to his heels, is off instantly. Those in the house, generally knowing for what purpose the amusing rap was made, commence a search for the juvenile billet-doux: in this manner numbers are disposed of by each youth. By way of teasing the person who attends the door, a white oblong square the size of a letter is usually chalked on the step of the door, and should an attempt be made to pick it up, great amusement is thus afforded to some of the urchins, who are generally watching.Every Day Book, vol, ii. p. 222.
Feb. 14.]            ST. VALENTINES DAY.
This is a festival which lovers have observed and poets have honoured from time immemorial. The observance is much more than sixteen hundred years old, when the Christian Valentine was beaten by clubs and beheaded, at the time of the great heathen festival of love and purification. A few years ago the observance was dying out; but it has lately revived, especially in London.N. & Q. 4th S. vol. xi. p. 129.
In that curious record of domestic life in England in the reign of Charles II., Pepys' Diary, we find some notable illustrations of the customs connected with this day.
It appears that married and single were then alike liable to be chosen as a Valentine; and that lady Valentines were honoured not by anonymous verses, but by substantial gifts. Four days after Pepys had chosen Martha Batten for his Valentine, he took her to the Exchange, and there, " upon a pair of embroidered, and six pair of plain white gloves, I laid out 40s." The question of expense troubled the diarist. When, in 1667, he took his wife for (honorary) Valentine, he wrote down the fact that it would cost him 51. ; but he consoled himself by another fact, that he must have laid out as much " if we had not been Valentines,'' The outlay at the
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