I love old customs, don’t you? Though many are in danger of dying out. I love old books too, the smell, the feel and the wealth of words inside.
Recently I picked up a great little book that satisfies my love of both. Although this book is not old in an antiquarian sense, being published only 1987, but by all accounts is pretty hard to get hold of these days.
I only paid pennies for it from a charity shop, but it is an invaluable source of cakes, customs and traditions, so I won’t be parting with it any time soon. This is the book:
A Calendar of Feasts: Cattern Cakes and Lace by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer
I decided to give the Valentines recipe a go this morning (you will find the recipe at the end of this post). But first I decided to look for other information on St. Valentines day customs.
I noticed that through tradition and old folk-lore Valentines day makes connection with clothing, sewing, weaving and lace making.
I found another old book (this time on the internet) that gives some great local and traditional information:
British Popular Customs Present And Past – online book: Customs, practices & rituals from the traditions & folklore of the British Isles.
“Arranged According To The Calendar Days Of The Year.
By Rev T. F. Thiselton-dyer, M.A. Pembroke College, Oxon
Published By George Bell & Sons London Circa 1900”
The book was published in 1900, but the information that it contains comes from centuries previous to that:
I found this old valentines rhyme:
and this similar one:
“ Curl your locks as I do mine, Two before and three behind, So good morning, Valentine. Hurra! Hurra ! Hurra “
The above rhyme was apparently still being chanted in 1873 ( though both of the above verses are believed to date back to the late 1600’s).
That last rhyme is also very reminiscent of this next old nursery rhyme which has reference to “sewing” on line four:
“Curly Locks! curly locks! wilt thou be mine? Thou shall not wash dishes, nor yet feed the swine, But sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam, And feed upon strawberries, sugar, and cream.”
I certainly remember this rhyme from my childhood in the 1950’s. I also sung it to my daughter (mid 1970’s and granddaughter (mid 1990’s) when they were little.
Green Silk Stockings
Going back to the time of Samuel Pepys, it seems clothing was often given as Valentines gifts:
In 1669, Samuel Pepys:
“went to the New Exchange, and bought her a pair of fashionable ” green silk stockings, and garters, and shoe-strings, and two pairs of jessimy gloves, all coming to about 28s.” London shops do not now exhibit green silk stockings, but they tempt buyers with gallant intentions; and ” Valentine gifts ” are in windows or on counters at prices to suit a few and terrify many”.
Ooh my! I wonder if my fella would like me to wear green silk stockings? They would look rather fetching with my green sleeves don’t you think?
Wedding Lace (in and out of favour)
It was once quite common for weddings to take place on St. Valentines day too, with bridal lace being made from a thread called “Coventry Blue”. The Puritans stopped the custom of “showy” dress and so the Lace Makers in Coventry were soon put out of business.
However during the 18th Century lace making again became popular when lovers began to have their initials worked together in Lyme Regis Lace. This lace was of good quality, and the tradition was good for business.
In the books: “A Dictionary of British Folk Customs by Christine Hole” and “Yorkshire Days by Nicholas Rhea”, I found reference to February 14th as Valentines Day and Plum Shuttle Eating Day. The plums referred to are currants, but the “shuttle” referred to is the “weaving shuttle” which the buns are shaped after, being oval, yet pointed in shape. This brings me full circle back to my recipe from the book “A Calendar of Feasts: Cattern Cakes and Lace” as mentioned at the top of my post:
Valentines Day (Weavers Shuttle) Buns
A little burnt around the edges, but what true love dosen’t get a bit singed from time to time?
Happy Valentines Day x
Love and Hugs from Slizzy
“A Calendar of Feasts: Cattern Cakes and Lace by by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer (1987) (ISBN 0 86318 252 6) Dorling Kindersley: London”
“A Dictionary of British Folk Customs by Christine Hole (1976) (ISNB 0 586 08293 x) Granada: Herts”
“Yorkshire Days by Nicholas Rhea (1995) (ISBN 1 87 2167 70 5) Hutton Press: Beverley”