Top 5 Weirdest Courtship Customs

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Parents usually want to marry their kids off at a certain age, except maybe the youngest: that one might prove useful for cooking soft food and rubbing your gnarled feet in your dotage. But how do you get your children to pair off with the right mate? That quandary has been addressed in many different ways around the world.

5 Head Hunting Love

What girl wouldn’t cherish the severed head of an enemy? So thought the Atayals, a tribe in Taiwan who hunted heads until the 1930s. In addition to “promise heads,” Atayal teens were into tattoos and weaving. Unmarried girls and boys got forehead tattoos from female tattoo artists, who learned the skill from their mothers. Skilled weavers could also have their cheeks tattooed. And when happy matches were made, eventually the women wove prized net bags for their husbands to carry heads in.

4 Courting Sticks

By the 18th century, New Englanders had become stuffier. There was no more bundling. In fact, couples weren’t even allowed to get close enough together to talk without being overheard. So courting sticks were born. These hollow tubes allowed boys and girls to whisper endearments to each other from 6 feet apart. With family members in the room. Suddenly bundling seemed really hot.

3 Bundling

In colonial America and northwestern Europe, parents tormented teens by letting a boy sleep in their daughter’s bed, but each tightly wrapped in his and hers blankets. To really get the point across, they’d put a long board down the middle of the bed. This practice, called “bundling,” was common during the 16th and 17th centuries.

2 Love Huts

More than one culture has come up with this idea. Both the Zulus in Africa and the remote Kreung tribe in Cambodia have concluded that girls need a little privacy to assess their suitors. So they build love huts for their daughters. Since the Kreungs never divorce, a girl is expected to try out as many boys as she wants until she finds a keeper.

1 Finnish Knives

If you were a 19th-century Finnish girl on the make, you’d wear an empty sheath on your belt or girdle. An interested fellow could present you with a knife. If you allowed his knife into your sheath, that was a promise of marriage. If you rejected his knife, he’d look for another sheath.

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