What Is Spooning? The History of a Welsh Tradition
What is Spooning?
If you had never heard the term, you might wonder what the fork spooning is. It may sound like something that goes on the dining room table, but (the others eating there hope) it is not often found on a table. I'm not saying that I've never heard of someone spooning on their dining room table, I'm just stating it's not usually an everyday occurrence.
Spooning is a type of hugging. Both people involved in the hug face in the same direction so that they look like spoons in a drawer. Wikipedia states that the front person is called the "Big Spoon" and the back person is called the "Little Spoon." Now, I have never heard that before, but I certainly like when my partner holds me this way, and I can feel his "little spoon" against my back. Funny how he usually turns into the "big spoon" as he holds me.
This Is Spooning
How The Fork is Spooning a Wales Tradition?
Wales is famous for many things, the ones that stand out in my mind are Tom Jones, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton. I have heard the term "Prince of Wales." I know (from my school days) that Wales has a ton of coal, sheep, and mountains...but where does spooning come in? How can a hug be associated with a country?
Here's a fact I had not previously known, Wales is also famous for it's "love spoons." Sounds a little kinky, don't you think? Sorry to disappoint you, it's not kinky, it's an old courtship tradition in Wales. And no, they don't spank each other with spoons. This tradition is even older.
Tom Jones "She's a Lady"
Wood Carving and Wales
The Welsh have been famous for their wood carvings since medieval times. Many cathedrals hold testament to the skill of the Welsh in the form of carved "rood screens." These intricately carved screens were both a symbolic and physical barrier that separated the domain of the priests (the sanctuary) from that of the masses (the nave). The holes allowed the ordinary people to see into the priests' world and granted them a limited access into the spiritual realm.
Wood carving was an exalted talent in Wales. The best carvers were excellent providers for their families. I am not sure exactly who started the tradition of carving love spoons but once started it caught on like a wildfire. Soon young men throughout Wales were carving spoons to win the love of that special someone.
Welsh Love Spoons
I know what you are thinking, how does a spoon win the love of a maiden? Well, the Welsh love spoons were not just any old spoon pumped out by a factory. They were hand carved pieces of art. Young men would spend months carving them, the more intricate, the better. Tradition tells that if the woman of their desires accepted the spoon, the two were then acknowledged as a couple by society.
Spoons existed before forks. They were useful for eating, measuring, cooking and serving. They were a multi-functional utensil and a much sought after commodity. Love spoons took several hours to carve. The young man would spend many evenings carving the perfect one. Several evenings that would be well worth his time if it were accepted by his love. They were the equivalent of an engagement ring.
What Do The Symbols Mean?
Welsh love spoons were carved with care, and the symbols carved into them were very personal. The more intricate the carving, the more the man cared for the woman. Each heart, chain, and flower had meaning, meaning that when strung together was very intimate and personal.
From telling her how many children he wanted to telling her that his heart was "anchored" in her, the love spoon gave the man a lasting testimony of his love. Originally they were probably used in everyday life, but over time they became ornamental. A woman would proudly display this avowal of her man's love for all her neighbors to see.
Some of the symbols used most often included:
Double Heart: They love each other, a shared love
Celtic Knot: Everlasting love
Vine Twist: Our love will grow
Horseshoe: Good luck and good fortune
Single Heart: May I court you?
Link Chain: Married within (however many links) years
Ball in Cage: Your love is safe with me
Heart Shaped Spoon: We will have a life full of love
Birds: Love birds or Let's go away together.
What Does This Have to Do With Spooning?
The Welsh called this display of affection spooning. Spooning originally meant the giving of an intricately carved spoon to the woman you loved and wanted to marry. Over time, spooning came to mean a type of hug where you lay facing the same way. Although the meanings are different, the word originated in Wales.
I hope this has been helpful, researching this has been delightfully enlightening. I would never have guessed the origins of the word! Remember, Wales is a lovely country and it has given us more than we know. Spoon often, spoon well, and happy forking!
How To Spoon
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© 2010 Katie Butler