Has your beloved ever given you a love spoon? Have you heard of them before? Well, they’re a big deal here in Wales. But what are love spoons exactly? Love spoons were romantic tokens crafted by male suitors and presented to the maidens they admired.
ORIGINS OF THE LOVE SPOON
The first example of the word 'llwy' (spoon) appears in the work of Taliesin, the sixth century Welsh poet.
The earliest examples come from the seventeenth century and demonstrate the emotion and passion of carvers who sought to produce works of art worthy of their beloved. Small pocket knives were traditionally used to create the spoons from wood such as sycamore, box and fruit woods.
It’s frustrating that we can’t date their exact origins but they must have been shaped with great care and devotion by their carvers. The young man would be meticulous in the hope that the girl would accept it. If the girl accepted the spoon, she would demonstrate her interest in him in return. This would signify the start of a relationship, which is the origin of the term 'spooning'! Love spoons were ostensibly a token of love and affection and each spoon was intended to be unique.
For some historical context, at the time, practical skills in a husband would have been very desirable and a beautifully carved spoon would demonstrate the young man's skills. The more complicated the design, the more it would symbolise the depth of the whittler's love and perhaps, more importantly, his devotion to labouring on behalf of his loved one.
MODERN-DAY LOVE SPOONS
The practice of carving love spoons has dwindled over time but it still survives thanks to a new breed of craftsmen determined to preserve the art.
Modern carvers combine the love spoons' folk origins with a contemporary twist, often creating spoons for special occasions.
Today they are frequently given as gifts to commemorate events such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and christenings. You may have even purchased one as a souvenir of your Welsh holiday!
SYMBOLISM OF LOVE SPOONS
The symbolism in individual lovespoons is really important. In a time when people were discouraged from freely sharing or showing feelings the lovespoon was a clever way of communicating one's feelings. A range of symbols came to represent the gift-giver's hope for the relationship.
Here are some of the meanings:
A ball in a cage: the number of children one wishes to have
A diamond: good fortune
A key: the partner holds the key to his/her heart or home
Celtic knot work: love everlasting
A twisted stem: two lives becoming one
A Welsh dragon: protection
Love spoons, even if not carved by your own fair hand, are a really thoughtful gift. Luckily, they’re available in many of the gift shops and tourist information centres in the area. If you want an elegant souvenir from your trip to North Wales or to make a grand gesture to someone special, we think they make the perfect gift!