5 Strange Courting Rituals from Around the World
In this country, if you're harboring a secret crush, Valentine's Day is when to let it be known. Each year on that day, many quivering hands have offered chocolates and flowers, and many a racing heart has skipped a beat at the words, "Will you be my Valentine?"The question seems rather strange when you think about it. But then again, its oddity pales next to courting rituals common in other parts of the globe.
Life's Little Mysteries has compiled a list of some of the strangest traditions that exist to help love take first flight.
#1 In rural Austria, it's not chocolate bon-bons that are the way to a lover's heart; it's apples soaked in armpit sweat. Young women do a ritual dance with apple slices lodged in their armpits. After the dance, each gives her slice to the man of her choice, and he then eats it. (Sounds a little heavy on the pheromones if you ask us.)
#2 Among the Kreung tribe in a remote region of Cambodia, parents build a "love hut" for their daughter when she reaches her mid-teens. Different boys spend the night in the hut with the girl sometimes more than one in the same night until she finds the one she wants to marry. Divorce is unheard of among the Kreung, so couples need to know what they're getting into.
#3 After reaching puberty, young men and women in traditional Hindu Balinese society must undergo a ritual tooth filing. In an elaborate ceremony overseen by a Brahman priest, their upper canines are filed down to the level of their incisors, a painful ritual that is believed to rid them of evil tendencies such as greed, lust, anger, jealousy, and intoxication. With those out of the way, the young people are considered ready to marry.
#4 "Bundling" was once a common courting practice in northwestern Europe and Colonial America. With parental oversight, an adolescent boy and girl would stay the night together in the same bed, but tightly wrapped in separate blankets, sometimes with a "bundling board" placed between them. This setup permitted intimacy, but definitely not intercourse .
#5 The Dai people of China practice an annual courtship ritual called "visiting girls." It starts out with young women sitting together around a bonfire and turning their spinning wheels. A group of men draped in red blankets and playing musical instruments approaches them, and each man chooses a woman to serenade. If the woman of his choice likes him back, she'll take out a small stool from under her skirt and invite him to sit on it. Then the man will wrap her in his red blanket, and they'll do what lovers do everywhere: whisper sweet nothings in each other's ears.
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Got a question? Send Life's Little Mysteries an email and we'll crack it. Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover
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Natalie Wolchover was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012 and is currently a senior physics writer and editor for Quanta Magazine. She holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Tufts University and has studied physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Along with the staff of Quanta, Wolchover won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory writing for her work on the building of the James Webb Space Telescope. Her work has also appeared in the The Best American Science and Nature Writing and The Best Writing on Mathematics, Nature, The New Yorker and Popular Science. She was the 2016 winner of the Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award, an annual prize for young science journalists, as well as the winner of the 2017 Science Communication Award for the American Institute of Physics.
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