Not your Typical Valentine’s Day

These days, we pretty much know what to expect on Valentine’s Day. Flowers, cards, chocolates – the usual. Or is it? This hasn’t always been the V-day drill. Other times and other countries have practiced traditions that may raise eyebrows today.

In France, heart day used to include a custom called “drawing for.” Unmarried people of all ages would file into houses that were facing each other, and then they’d “window shop” from across the alleyway. They’d call out to each other and choose a partner before pairing off. If a guy didn’t find his date particularly engaging, he’d dump her and find something else to do. Later that night, the jaded girls would gather around a bonfire and nurse their wounded egos together. They’d burn images of their exes and yell insults at them.

An old Italian tradition was for young single women to wake up before dawn and gaze out their window, waiting for a man to walk by. The first hunk to cross her path was either the man she was destined to be with, or bore a resemblance to the man she was supposed to marry. Best case – she found a man. Worst case – she only got a clue.

Another tradition was for girls to write the names of boys on several small pieces of paper, and then hide them in the middle of balls of clay. Then they’d toss the clay balls into a pool of water, and wait for them to dissolve. The first name to break free of the melting clay and float to the top was the boy she was supposed to marry.

Other girls would pin a bay leaf to each corner of her clothed body, which was supposed to make her dream of her future husband. If that didn’t work, there was always going to the church yard at midnight with a handful of hempseed. The girls would circle around the building, dropping the seeds while they chanted something along the lines of, “My true love is on his way and will be here soon.”

But perhaps the oldest Valentine’s tradition of all is the Festival of Lupercalia held in Rome, which is believed to be the pagan festival that Valentine’s Day was meant to replace. The festival was held every February 14, and women would write love letters and stuff them into a big urn. Then the men would pull a letter from the urn, and he’d pursue whoever wrote the letter he chose.

Although we celebrate today’s sappy holiday a little differently than those of yesteryear, all the essentials are the same. We’re still hoping to fall in love, stay in love, and do it all again next Valentine’s Day.

Man Starts Fire for Love

Man pops question, woman says yes, ring goes on finger. It’s the oldest Valentine’s Day script in the book. It’s been done a million times – and there are only so many ways to do it, right? A ring is found in a glass of wine, or a proposal is written across a score board. Sweet. Romantic. Memorable. But cliché.

But then you have the bizarre few that ditch the romance and go for the wacky. After all, what’s more memorable than the absurd?

Here’s a story of a guy who was guilty of “stealing” his lover’s heart and “breaking into” her soul. So he made friends with an officer and staged his own arrest. He used his one call to phone his sweetheart and tell her there’d been some sort of mistake, and she needed to come down to the station to bail him out. When she got there, she found him cuffed and confused. Then he surprised her by telling her he’d been found guilty of robbery and was now expecting a life sentence. “Baby, I robbed your heart, broke into your soul, and now I’m hoping for a life sentence by your side. Will you marry me?”

Or check out the avid gamer who invited his girlfriend to play a game of Halo with him. Half way through the game, his character led the way into a private area, where he’d used his virtual weapons to spell out “Marry me?” Pretty clever, and easy to do. It just took a little thought and preparation beforehand – and a girl that was as into gaming as he was.

Another guy staged a burial for Rover, the family dog that was 15, balding, and blind in one eye. He called up his girl and told her the old fur ball finally kicked the bucket, and could she please come hold his hand while he said his last goodbyes. While he was digging the grave, he feigned surprise when he hit something hidden in the dirt – a small wooden box with a picture of the two of them on the outside. He opened it up and exposed the contents – small souvenirs from their time together, and a sweet diamond ring that made up for the lie.

And then there’s the guy whose girl was just too hot to handle. He lit himself on fire to make the point. He enlisted the help of his trained, stunt-devil buddy to make sure the story didn’t have a tragic ending. He covered up in some protective gear, then lit himself on fire before jumping into the pool. Then, dripping wet and totally unharmed, he went to his girlfriend’s side and told her she made him hot, and asked her to make him hot forever.

One thing all of these stories have in common is that they’ll definitely be worth telling during the couple’s next 50 years together. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter if it’s sappy or slapstick – the proposal is just a means to an end. What matters is the promise being made and the happily ever after.

Happy Valentine’s Day.