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Poetry, Chocolates, Love Spoons–how will you express your love on Valentine’s?

sculpture of Welsh Love Spoon in The Ffwrwm
sculpture of Welsh Love Spoon in The Ffwrwm
Cherie DeLory

Ever wonder where the phrase, “spooning” comes from? The Welsh honor a modest, yet artistic, romantic tradition of giving hand carved wooden spoons as a symbol of love and affection.

What began in the 17th century as a simple carved wooden spoon with functional use, evolved into a decorative spoon with elaborate designs branching out from the handle. The carvers would design various symbols that convey meanings -- hearts for true love, a daffodil representing Wales’ national flower and a sign of growing love, or a cross denoting faith and marriage. A suitor would give a wooden spoon to his girlfriend as an expression of his intentions. Sailors would carve anchors into the spoons while away on long journeys at sea. The carved spoon would also impress the father of the soon-to-be bride because it was a demonstration of the suitor’s woodworking skills and ability to provide for a family.

The earliest known Welsh Love Spoon, dated 1667, is on display at St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff, the capital of Wales. The museum is located on the 100-acre grounds of St. Fagans Castle and gardens, a late 16th century manor house donated to Wales by the Earl of Plymouth. Also on the property is an open-air museum, which recreates buildings from different historical periods. You can visit a schoolhouse, a general store, woollen mill, bakehouse, blacksmith, farmyard, and photography studio. You’ll want to stop in at the 1920s-style tearoom to enjoy freshly made breads and cakes and a spot of tea.

In the village of Caerleon near Newport, South Wales, an intricate sculpture of a love spoon can be found in The Ffwrwm. This cobbled courtyard showcases the town’s literary and archeological importance, once the site of a Roman legionary fortress.