Dating can seem really complicated and confusing with a bunch of weird rules involved: How long should I wait before texting back? When is it okay to slide into the DMs? How many dates should we go on before I ask where the other person sees things going?
However, while our dating lives may be complex and occasionally frustrating, some historical dating rituals were straight-up bizarre.
Water Is Thrown On Unmarried Women in Slavic Europe
In Slavic Europe, but mostly Poland, Śmigus-dyngus is a holiday during which boys throw water over unmarried girls and spank them with pussy willow branches on Easter Monday. Boys will often walk door to door to visit girls.
However, attractive women are targeted the most during this day and tend to get soaked the most.
Nothing Like Knives To Signal Affection!
In the 1800s, young Finnish women who were close to marrying age would wear a sheath on their belt. If a young man was interested in her, he would place a knife inside her sheath.
If she returned the knife to him, she wasn't interested, but if she kept it, it meant she was down to marry him.
I Love You Sew Much
In the 1600s, Puritans used thimbles as the romantic gift of choice. Puritan men gave their brides-to-be a thimble instead of a ring upon engagement. It was a very practical gift, considering that sewing was one of the main activities women performed.
After the wedding, the top of the thimble was cut off and the bottom rim was used as a ring.
Shhhh, My Parents Are Sleeping!
In rural parts of Bhutan, there is a ritual called Bomena ("night hunting") during which men break into the homes of young women to express their interest. They try to convince the young women to sleep with them.
Everything is consensual, but escaping from a night hunt is not easy—Bhutanese families generally sleep in common rooms, and parents can easily be awakened!
The Predecessor Of The Pillow Wall
"Bundling" was a practice in northern Europe and America, where a young unmarried couple was able to share a bed, but they had a wall between them to avoid letting any activities go down in the sheets.
The practice originated in the Netherlands and allowed couples to get to know each other and grow more comfortable with each other prior to the wedding day.
I Want A Man Who'll Fight For Me
Every May in Tenganan, Bali, eligible bachelors go to a local arena and fight each other using bamboo shields and the thorny leaves of a pandanus plant. They engage in combat for hours for the sole purpose of impressing the local single ladies.
While the men fight, the women take turns riding a foot-powered Ferris wheel so they can get a good look at the action.
Now This Is A Ritual I Could Get Behind
While brides in the Western world exercise vigorously and might even diet in anticipation of their wedding day to ensure they fit into their dress, Mauritanian women do the opposite. In areas of western Africa, holding a little extra weight is the standard of beauty because it symbolizes wealth and success.
Some brides-to-be will go to a "fat farm" where they're fed heavy meals to pack on a few pounds.
I Wanna Spoon! (Welsh-Style)
In the 17th century, Welsh men would carve intricate spoons from wood to demonstrate their interest in a woman. The design would include the woman's name and other symbols. If she accepted it and the couple later married, then the spoon would be displayed on the wall of their home.
Put On A Show, Boys!
In Niger, the Wodaabe people gather every year for a festival called "Gerewol." Men dress up in brightly colored clothing and elaborate costumes, including a full face of colorful makeup. The men dance for hours in the blistering heat while drinking a fermented bark drink that has some hallucinogenic effects.
Meanwhile, the women look on and judge their appearance—kind of like a beauty pageant.
Let Me Be A Notch On Your Belt
The Renaissance saw a resurgence of arts and culture, and the courting rituals followed suit. During the Italian Renaissance, courtiers would give ornate belts to the women they desired. These belts were often embroidered with the man's personal erotic poetry directed towards her—and I can't even get a "good morning" text.
...And My Father Wouldn't Even Let A Boy Near My Room
In some African cultures, like that of the Zulus, fathers won't let suitors visit their daughters inside their own homes, but they aren't prudes about it. Instead, a father will provide his daughter with a "courting hut" where she could meet with and entertain interested suitors without her parents watching over her shoulders.
You Can't Grind On Me In The Club If You Don't Sign Up First!
People in the Victorian era loved to keep courtship rigid and regulated, but women did get to have a bit of choice with their partners.
At events that involved dancing, girls would have a "dance card" tied to their wrist on which men could sign up for a dance. A man would leave his personal calling card for the lady to choose from if he wanted to see her again.
Kill A Whale Or I'm Not Even Considering You
Men, consider yourselves lucky that the woman of your dreams only wants an engagement ring from you. In Fijian tradition, when a man wants to marry a woman, he goes out into the sea, kills a whale, and pulls out its teeth to make a necklace (tabua). Men can buy a tabua now rather than hunt for one themselves, but the past Fijians were hardcore.
Better Hope You Have A Strong Bladder
For the three days preceding their wedding, the bride and groom of the Tidong people of Malaysia are not allowed to use the bathroom. In their culture, ignoring this ritual and relieving yourself brings terrible luck onto the young couple and could doom the marriage to divorce or something even worse.
Want To Know What My Armpit Tastes Like?
In the 19th century, Austrian women would come to an evening dance with an apple slice wedged into their armpits. It would stay there throughout the entirety of the event. At the end fo the night, each woman would offer one lucky guy the chance to eat the fruit as a show of interest.
Celery Is A Real Gossip-Starter
In extremely modest Amish communities, people tend to keep their engagements and romantic lives under wraps until right before the wedding. However, one of the traditional and favored dishes at an Amish wedding is creamed celery, so when neighbors notice a family is suddenly growing a lot of celery, they can assume a wedding is coming soon.
Peacocking, But Very Literally
In the remote areas around Papua New Guinea's Mount Hagen, islanders from many tribes gather together for the annual Sing-sing festival. Attendees come to celebrate, sing, and dance, but also to find potential mates. Out of respect for the mating rituals of local birds, islanders wear feathers and body paint in hopes of attracting someone special.
Give Me A Tree So I Know It's Real
Germans, the people who started the tradition of Christmas trees, clearly have a thing for them. An old German custom involved a young man standing a birch tree draped in ribbons and decorations on a love interest's lawn on the first of May. If the tree lasted through the month without being cut down, it meant that she reciprocated his feelings.
This Is Infinitely Cooler Than A Boombox Outside My Window
Traditionally, Sioux women were supposed to practice modesty and wouldn't even make eye contact with a man they weren't directly related to. If a man wanted to woo a woman, he would stand outside her hut and play the flute for her. All she had to do was exit the hut in order to express her mutual interest.
Skulls Are Presented To Women As Gifts In A Tribe In Taiwan
It may sound bizarre, but skulls were a central part of romance for the Atayal tribe of Taiwan. Known to be a tribe of fierce warriors, men would collect the heads of their defeated enemies. When a man was interested in a woman, he would offer up all his skulls to her as a token of his romantic feelings toward her.