VIII. START OF THE ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP
Meeting places and opportunities
It was more difficult in the past than today for young men and women to be in contact. Due to the clear division of work, women were usually confined to indoors or stayed close to the home. The working day was also intense, meaning that neither sex usually had free time.
Their only opportunity to be in contact was the dance on Sundays and bank holidays. Leaving religious ceremonies was also an opportunity to meet, as was the paseo or evening stroll, particularly during Lent when dancing was forbidden.
Completing important seasonal tasks such as threshing was cause for celebration and would bring young people of both sexes together in a homestead dance. Some collective tasks such as husking corn also brought young men and women together.
These circumstances changed and the meeting opportunities increased halfway through the 20th century. Dances continued to be the most common meeting place, but given the greater free time, associations were set up and young people would enjoy shared activities during their spare time. For example, trips and mountain climbing, "going to the country", were important opportunities for young people to meet, particularly for those living in urban areas.
Bar and discos are now the main points that attract young people. There has also been a change in the timetable when young people go out to have fun: it has gone from the evening-night of the past to the night-early hours of the morning of today. The festivities sometimes go on all night and the young people do not return home till the next day, which is known as gaupasa.
Dances have been one of the most important meeting points for young people as they have made it easier for the sexes to meet and were the most appropriate place for a courtship, and both the young men and women always went dressed in their best. Nearly all the people interviewed mentioned the importance of the dance.
Accompanying the girl home. Neska laguntzea
Apart from meeting at the dance, it was very usual for the young man to accompany the girl home. This external sign was a further step as it meant that a courtship had begun.
In the past, during Lent, young people turned innocent children’s games into mixed ones, which allowed them to play with members of the other sex. Craftiness rather than courtship flourished in them. Those games were usually played in Lent because dancing was forbidden in that period.
Rites and prayers to find a suitor
Calling on the saints, who helped to find a suitor according to tradition, to intervene has been a widespread practice in many locations. The rosary was often said to Our Lady for the same purpose.
Preparing doughnuts. Piperopilak
Preparing doughnuts was a way for women to show their appreciation; to a certain extent it could be seen as courtship by the young women.
Propitious time to start a romantic relationship
It used to be thought that summer was the best time to embark on a romantic relationship as it was the time of many Patron Saint festivities. The pilgrimages were a good opportunity to meet new people, sometimes because people from neighbouring towns and villages came to the festivities and sometimes between the local young people went to the nearby celebrations.
The best time to embark on a relationship was summer. However, winter was also considered the best time in some locations as there was not so much farming work to be done as in summer. The meetings were usually in homes during the winter.
Taking the lead in romantic relations
In general, the young man asked the girl to embark on a romantic relationship, even though there would have been many steps in the lead-up, including meeting at dances and during the evening strolls, numerous looks, flirting and signs that expressed the mutual interest.