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Cultural Icons

People of today often associate cultures with specific "cultural icons" -- objects or practices that we associate with the "essence" of that culture. And because we consider those objects or practices to express something essential about the particular culture, we tend to assume that they have always been a part of that culture. An excellent example of this phenomenon is the Scottish kilt: because it has become such a prominent icon of Scottishness in the last several centuries, there is a tendency to believe that it must have deep and ancient origins (a belief that the evidence does not support).

There are a number of "cultural icons" that are associated with Welsh culture today, and this FAQ explores their historic roots, and especially whether they can be traced in any form back before 1600.

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"Lovespoons" are elaborately carved, purely "decorative" spoons, created and presented as love tokens (although in the modern souvenier trade, the romantic associations have faded except for the name). Claims are sometimes made that the practice dates back to medieval times or at least the 16th century, however it is not clear that this is the case.

There's a nice little article on Welsh lovespoons in the Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies (vol.35, 1988) "Lovespoons in perspective" by H.E. Roese. It doesn't date the practice back as early as the early 1600s -- the article indicates that no carved spoon of this type (and this general type of carved spoon can be found all over Europe -- not just in Wales) is known that dates earlier than 1660. Wooden spoons certainly survive from an earlier period, but not ones with the sort of "show-off" carving characteristic of love-spoons.

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