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Such an interesting note to see how dating and courtship has changed over the years.  What a change, yet fascinating to see how things use to be.

Every culture is different and that is what makes a diverse world. Dating is a ritual that many couples participate in to find a partner in marriage or to test compatibility as a mate. Many cultures have specific dating rituals that are unique to their region, their religion and their way of life.  A few of the cultural differences I have incorporated in this article.

Dating companies teaching men how to pursue women has increased over the years. Based on a foundation of pickup artist skills, companies such as Love Systems, Double Your Dating, and Pickup 101 have become popular due to increasing demand for men on knowing how to get a girl. The companies teach skills on going from scratch to starting a courtship with a woman.

The trend of singles making a Web connection continues to increase, as the percentage of North American singles who have tried Internet dating has grown from two percent in 1999 to over ten percent today. More than half of online consumers (53%) know someone who has started a friendship or relationship online, and three-quarters of 18-to-24-year-old online consumers (74%) say they do.

There is also some academic evidence that the 18–25 age group has significantly taken up online dating. This growing trend is reflected in the surging popularity of online communities such as Faceparty, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and Nexopia sites which are not directly geared toward dating, but many users nonetheless use to find potential dates or research a new acquaintance to check for availability and compatibility.  Using these social media sites for trying to find a partner is not always the proper thing to do, there are many on these sites that are just out to scam their victims or just interested in sex (be it in real time or otherwise) and when they are finished with their victim they will drop you like a hot potato.

In ancient times, many of the first marriages were by capture, not choice – when there was a scarcity of nubile women, men raided other villages for wives. Frequently the tribe from which a warrior stole a bride would come looking for her, and it was necessary for the warrior and his new wife to go into hiding to avoid being discovered. According to an old French custom, as the moon went through all its phases the couple drank a brew called metheglin, which was made from honey. Hence, we get the word, honeymoon. Arranged marriages were the norm, primarily business relationships born out of the desire and/or need for property, monetary or political alliances.

From buying a woman dinner to opening a door for her, many of today’s courting rituals are rooted in medieval chivalry. During medieval times, the importance of love in a relationship emerged as a reaction to arranged marriages, but was still not considered a prerequisite in matrimonial decisions. Suitors wooed their intended with serenades and flowery poetry, following the lead of lovelorn characters on stage and in verse. Chastity and honor were highly regarded virtues. In 1228, it is said by many that women first gained the right to propose marriage in Scotland, a legal right that then slowly spread through Europe. However, a number of historians have pointed out that this supposed leap year proposal statute never occurred, and instead gained its legs as a romantic notion spread in the press.

During the Victorian Era (1837-1901), romantic love became viewed as the primary requirement for marriage and courting became even more formal – almost an art form among the upper classes. An interested gentleman could not simply walk up to a young lady and begin a conversation. Even after being introduced, it was still some time before it was considered appropriate for a man to speak to a lady or for a couple to be seen together. Once they had been formally introduced, if the gentleman wished to escort the lady home he would present his card to her. At the end of the evening the lady would look over her options and chose who would be her escort. She would notify the lucky gentleman by giving him her own card requesting that he escort her home. Almost all courting took place in the girl’s home, always under the eye of watchful parents. If the courting progressed, the couple might advance to the front porch. Smitten couples rarely saw each other without the presence of a chaperone, and marriage proposals were frequently written.

Some of the Nordic countries have courtship customs involving knives. For example, in Finland when a girl came of age, her father let it be known that she was available for marriage. The girl would wear an empty sheath attached to her girdle. If a suitor liked the girl, he would put a puukko knife in the sheath, which the girl would keep if she was interested in him.

The custom of bundling, found in many parts of 16th and 17th century Europe and America, allowed courting couples to share a bed, fully clothed, and often with a “bundling board” between them or bolster cover tied over the girls legs. The idea was to allow the couple to talk and get to know each other but in the safe (and warm) confines of the girl’s house.

Dating back to 17th century Wales, ornately carved spoons, known as love spoons, were traditionally made from a single piece of wood by a suitor to show his affection to his loved one. The decorative carvings have various meanings – from an anchor meaning “I desire to settle down” to an intricate vine meaning “love grows.”

Chivalrous gentlemen in England often sent a pair of gloves to their true loves. If the woman wore the gloves to church on Sunday it signaled her acceptance of the proposal.

In some parts of 18th century Europe a biscuit or small loaf of bread was broken over the head of the bride as she emerged from the church. Unmarried guests scrambled for the pieces, which they then placed under their pillows to bring dreams of the one they would someday marry. This custom is believed to be the precursor of the wedding cake.

Many cultures throughout the world recognize the idea of matrimony as the “ties that bind”. In some African cultures, long grasses are braided together and used to tie the hands of the groom and bride together to symbolize their union. Delicate twine is used in the Hindu Vedic wedding ceremony to bind one of the bride’s hands to one of the hands of the groom. In Mexico the practice of having a ceremonial rope loosely place around both of the necks of the bride and groom to “bind” them together is common.

Italy is a beautiful country that has a culture embedded in thousands of years of tradition and ritual. Love and romance are as much a part of the culture as the ties to the Catholic Church. How you dress can determine who you attract as a mate or who you may marry. Women dress well to draw the attention of potential suitors, and men dress well to show they can provide for the women they are after. Both men and women’s dating rituals are the same in the respect that each gender dates those deemed a suitable partner, but both men and women sometimes do have flippant affairs with others who are attractive but do not meet their economic goals.  Italian’s have a reputation for being fantastic lovers.

German men may bring flowers to the mother of his date as a courtesy. Germany is known for its beautiful mountains and alpine living. Dating in Germany is a ritual that has certain guidelines. Most Germans do not marry until their mid to late 20s. This leaves plenty of time for dating and finding the right mate. A German girl would never ask a man out or pick up the check for dinner. That is a man’s responsibility.

A Thai woman’s reputation is her ticket to a good marriage.   Thailand is deeply ingrained in its culture and dating rituals. A Thai woman’s reputation is her badge of honor. A Thai woman usually won’t have sex when dating and may at least wait until the marriage date is approaching. A Thai man must measure the woman’s reputation to match the dowry that he must present to the woman’s family when he asks for her hand in marriage. During the dating ritual, a Thai woman may hold the hand of her boyfriend, but touching other parts of the body is considered taboo. The woman’s head is considered sacred and cannot be touched by a man unless she gives him permission.

In Mexico, girls are often expected to see their boyfriends at home under the young women’s parents and other family members’ eyes.   Dating rituals in Mexico are held in place by the cultural belief that family comes first. The male plays the dominant role in both dating and as head of a family. A young suitor must ask permission to date from the woman’s father and sometimes even the grandfather. The suitor takes on the role of a man during dating by asking for the date and paying for dinner. Though American influences and attitudes have influenced dating in Mexico’s urban areas, the rural areas of the country still follow custom. Public affection is not frowned upon in Mexico, though sexual situations won’t happen until a long-term commitment is decided upon.

Kathy Kiefer


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