Friday, June 04, 2010


Following the Brenda Novak Auction, I’ve had several people ask me about the wonderful romantic tradition we have in Wales, of carving and giving a Love Spoon. Although the exact origins are unclear, the spoons are shaped with great care and devotion by their carvers and each spoon is unique.

The choice of spoon began as a practical thing. Wooden spoons were used to eat what is still a great national dish in Wales, a vegetable and lamb broth called Cawl. Love spoons were elaborate versions of the basic spoon, carved through long winter months by a young man for the girl he loved. The earliest surviving example, displayed in the St Fagans Museum of Welsh Life near Cardiff, dates from around 1667, although the tradition is probably far older.

Some are beautifully carved but even the most elaborate love spoon is carved from one piece of wood to show the skill of the carver many of whom were shy and unwilling to show their emotions. They would attempt to convey their true feelings through the use of various symbols and those that appear frequently include hearts, diamonds, to signify wealth, wheels, to represent the wheel of life and keys to denote security.

If the girl kept this present, all was well, but if she sent it back, she did not want him.
Some spoons include wooden chains, swivels and rings, the purpose being to make an object from one piece of wood, which seemed initially to be made from several pieces. The decoration of love spoons takes many forms to allow for the artistic expression of the carver and to give personal meaning to the design. My own personal love spoon, which has pride of place on the wall of our home, has two balls carved within a cage to indicate a hope for two children.

In the 1800s, when the Victorians began sending greeting cards, the tradition of the Welsh love spoons broadened to be given to family and friends and to mark special occasions, such as a birth or anniversary, although the original idea of a courting gift is still as strong.

The one in the photograph is a modern version with the handle formed from two daffodils – the Welsh national flower.

I’m wondering if any of you have a similar tradition? Something hand-crafted, or significant, to be given as a token of love. Do share!


Sarah Callejo said...

What a beautiful tradition. How could you ever reject someone who went to all that effort for you? Glad I didn't have to carve any, mine would've looked like the spoon the Neanderthals used and I'd get it thrown back at me.
A very interesting post Liz.

Lacey Devlin said...

It's a wonderful tradition and they're so pretty!