A few days ago, I posted about the 17th century Frost Fair in London, and (apparently) invoked a huge icy mess to descend on the East Coast today. Fearful of these new-found powers, I’ll just add my best wishes for Valentine’s Day, and cross my fingers. Besides, if there’s a sudden outbreak of hearts, flowers, and true love, is that really such a bad thing?
I’ll also add a few historical notes to go along with Jo’s. Celebrating St. Valentine’s Day was one of the old customs happily revived at Charles II’s restoration to the throne in 1660. (Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan ilk had tried to ban the day as frivolous and pagan, overlooking the fact that most Englishmen and women rather like being both frivolous and pagan on occassion.) Valentines were drawn among a group of friends, with names written on a slip of paper and pulled at random. In most cases, the tokens exchanged were simple, a kiss, a song, or the valentine’s name prettily drawn on a paper.
In Charles’s Court, however, everything was done on a grander scale, and there was a great deal of jockeying among the ladies to try to have the King or one of the higher lords as a Valentine. With good reason, too: their Valentine tokens often took the shape of costly jewels, and one year the king’s brother, the Duke of York, gave a necklace valued at eight hundred pounds to a young lady-in-waiting that he was hotly pursuing. (No word on what the Duchess of York had to say about it.)
Another variation of choosing Valentines sounds similiar to Jo’s. After waking in the morning, a woman would have the first man she saw as her Valentine. As can be imagined, much care was taken arranging the proper time to open one’s eyes. One Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Pepys was so determined to have a friend of her husband Samuel’s as her Valentinue that she walked about the house with her eyes shut until he arrived, her greatest fear being that she’d first bump into one of the painters refurbishing their parlor.
Best wishes to all you Wenchlings and Wenches for the rest of the day!