In case you haven't noticed the masses of heart-shaped balloons and overpriced single roses for sale in the supermarket, today is Valentine's Day, our annual celebration of love, romance, and not being able to get a dinner reservation to save your life. But no matter where you fall on actually enjoying the holiday, don't you have to admit that some of the gifts and rituals feel, well, sort of tired? The same roses, red glitter, lacy love hearts, and chocolate each year: the tropes of romance in modern America are well-trodden, so much so that you'd think they were age-old.
But they aren't. And history offers some stranger, and vastly more entertaining, alternatives for your February 14th celebrations (though some of these traditions existed long before people actually began observing Valentine's Day, a holiday that has only been celebrated in a form anywhere near what we now do since the Middle Ages).
Courtship behavior in various cultures throughout human history has come in many different forms — some of which we are better for having lost, but some of which we should regret having misplaced in the mists of time. While the practice of "bundling" — where courting couples would be tied tightly in sheets so that they could lie beside one another all night talking without the potential loss of virginity — has been deservedly replaced by living together before marriage, others deserve to be resurrected. Because, after all, there's no better way to impress your lover than by shooting a glass of wine from the back of a horse.