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Ever been to a Live-Action Fantasy Role-Play (LARP) event and seen a strange studded citrus fruit being passed around in exchange for kisses? Ever wonder what the heck they were doing and why? If so, then this is the page for you!
The flirtatious escapade of the cloved orange (or almost any type of fruit or vegetable studded with cloves) has been around the LARP scene for years but it's a poorly documented practice for all its popularity and usefulness as a way to socialize and make new acquaintences without need of any formal introduction.
Below, you will find more than you ever wanted to know about the practice of the cloved fruit and the history and implementation of it in the LARP counterculture.
The history of giving gifts to another in hopes of winning their favor goes back to the beginning of time. Why a spice-decorated citrus fruit you ask?
In Renaissance times, both exotic spices and citrus fruits were not commonly available nor easy to come by. Fruits were only available in a particular season and only for a short span of time. The technologies to support year-long agriculture, specialized storage (refrigerators and the like), mass harvesting, and cross-country (and cross-continent) delivery were all many decades away. During the time, simply possessing such things as citrus fruits or exotic spices was a sign of wealth and prestige and what better way to get the attention of a paramour than to give some of that wealth to them?
As with any gift, it is always polite to thank the giver for their generosity. A kiss was often all a demure young lord or lady could part with, so thus began (in theory) the practice of the kiss in return for the presentation of the cloved fruit!
Like that story? It's totally fabricated, but it sure does sound like it could have happened that way! Historians assure me that during Medieval and Renaissance time periods a lot of things we take for granted were wholly absent. As the 'new world' had yet to be exploited, all new world flora and fauna were as yet unknown, so medieval europe wouldn't have known what an 'orange' was even if a "Sparrow dropped it" right upon their heads (although I assure you, were that to happen, they would have cloved the strange ruddy round object immediately. Really) .
The most likely actual use of a cloved fruit was as a pomander and worn on one's person as a type of human air freshener or left in places where one might wish to disguise odors. While giving one's paramour 'primitive deodorant' might seem a little crude by today's social mores, it might have been perfectly acceptable in time periods when personal hygiene was a bit less 'advanced'. Camp Fire today defines a pomander as
The first pomanders were made from gold or silver. They were shaped like balls and hung by a cord from the waist. They were filled with sweet smelling herbs and spices, and used as perfume. They were also thought to keep one from getting sick. Today, pomanders are made from fresh fruits and are hung in a closet to scent clothes and keep moths away.
Basic Use The most basic practice of passing the cloved orange is to offer it to someone whom you'd like to meet. They will then either rebuff your offer (a polite way to say 'not interested') or accept the cloved orange and offer a kiss (usually on the hand, cheek, or lips) in return. Another common practice is for the recipient to remove a single clove and touch themselves with the clove where they desire to be kissed. Don't EVER force more attention on someone than they are offering. Not only is this rude, but it is illegal, dangerous, and will result in your making a new enemy rather than a friend. If done properly, exchanging the cloved orange is a quick, fun, innocent way to meet people and indicate a willingness to get to know someone better.
The following is what a primer for new players in the S.C.A. has to say on the matter-
In the Middle Ages, it would be poor manners to just walk up to someone of the opposite sex and introduce yourself. Introductions would be made by a third party.
We have overlooked that custom and replaced it with the cloved fruit. This, as the name implies, is a fruit (lemon, orange, etc.) studded with cloves.
You go to the person to whom you wish to bestow the honour, present it and give proper compliments. In return you exchange a kiss.
It may be a kiss to the hand, the cheek or upon the lips, depending on how familiar you are with the person. The usual wisdom is tolet the Lady decide, but that should not oblige you to becoming more intimate than you are comfortable with.
Ask for a demonstration! Advanced Practices While the basic practice rarely changes much, the variations on the theme tend to become more advanced with each event or LARP you pass through. Wether it's a cloved orange, cloved grapefruit, cloved watermelon, or even a cloved onion, the ground rules remain pretty much the same: You offer the orange to someone you desire a kiss from and they remove a clove and return a kiss in the manne of their choosing.
As with any game, someone always has to change the rules, so now there are a few 'assumed' knowledges that go with the passing of the cloved orange; namely the body language that is now indicitive of the type of kiss that will be received.
- Receiver refuses cloved orange.
Receiver is not interested in participting. This is a nice way of saying "go away" or "not interested".
- Receiver removes clove with hand and holds it out palm down.
Receiver expects to return kiss on top of the hand. The most impersonal but polite form of return.
- Receiver removes clove with hand and holds it out palm up.
Receiver expects to return kiss on the wrist. This is often considered equally or more personal than a kiss on the lips.
- Receiver removes clove with mouth and then transfers clove to hand (or disposes of clove).
Receiver expects to return kiss on the cheek. This is the most common returned kiss.
- Receiver removes clove with mouth and holds clove between teeth with lips closed.
Receiver expects to return kiss on the cheek. Probably the most common form of returned kiss..
- Receiver removes clove with mouth and holds clove between teeth with lips open.
Receiver expects to return kiss on the mouth. The most common practice is for the reciever to bite down on the clove and then return it to the giver's mouth during the kiss. Kind of a medieval breath mint! While a very personal return, it still maintains an amount of decorum so don't try to force any more 'return' than the recipient is willing to give.
- Receiver removes clove with mouth and holds clove inside mouth.
Receiver expects to return exploratory kiss on the mouth (usually after biting clove and moving it to cheek). This is usually reserved for significant others or potential lovers. This usually means the cloved orange isn't getting transferred again for a few minutes (at least!).
Once the transfer of the clove is completed, the cloved orange is now the receiver's to give away, thus the practice continues until no cloves remain, but even this has special meaning in some places! Special Situations
- Receiver accepts cloved orange and then drops it on the ground or rolls it back to the giver and turns their back (or walks away).
This is considered an insult and is the most unflattering 'accepted' response in the practice of passing the cloved orange. It is equivalent to 'laughing in the face' of the giver, telling the giver to "drop dead", or even comparable to ridicule. This is highly unflattering and shouldn't be used in practice. It is listed here simply so that, should it occur to you, you will not mistake its meaning.
- Receiver accepts cloved orange, bestows kiss of choice, and then returns orange back to giver.
This is considered a great compliment! It essentially means that the first kiss simply was not enough to satisfy the recipient or perhaps the recipient wants to put the decision into the original giver's hands if they want to attempt the 'next higher level' of cloved orange intimacy. Occasionally it's meant as an invitation to more than a cloved orange passing might indicate! In such cases it is generally better to err on the side of caution, but regardless, it is definately considered a sign of romantic interest if the cloved orange is immediatly returned to you after having received your kiss.
- Giver presents receiver with an orange with only one clove remaining.
After having made the rounds for an evening, an orange with a single remaining clove is considered an offer of sex. Consent is generally made by consuming the orange (either taking a bite out of it rind and all, or the more romantic option of peeling it and sharing it between the two participants in the privacy of one's tent or 'special place').
Cloved Orange Etiquette
- You are never obligated to do anything more than you are comfortable doing either as the giver or the receiver of the cloved orange. Do what you are comfortable with and only what you are comfortable with in either situation. It is not rude nor unseemly to cut short or entirely refuse the attentions of the bearer of a cloved orange, that is the beauty of the practice of the cloved orange! Just be polite and even if you don't share a kiss, you will at least make the aquaintence of someone who finds you appealing enough to have approached you to begin with.
- A kiss is just a kiss. It is part of role-play. Don't mistake it for anything else unless the other person clearly indicates that it is something more. If in doubt, ask. Never force your attentions upon someone who is not interested.
- The above guidelines are not always understood by people new or unfamiliar to the cloved orange. Some practitioners always play with one set practice for receiving (say, removing a clove with the teeth) and one set reward for having received the cloved orange (say, a kiss on the lips). Be aware of any 'cultural differences' where you are participating and abide by them. If you wish to 'expand' the rules, feel free to announce the differences at court, feast, or moot beforehand so that everyone understands the game. No one way is better than the others, but it helps to know all the 'rules' before you become engaged in the game.
- It is impolite to point out to people that people involved in a kiss are not kissing their significant other. The people involved most assuredly already know that and vocalizing it tends to most unwelcome and often makes one appear the fool.
- LARPs are about role-playing and having fun. They are about assuming a role that does not necessarily have the same mores or morals as the individual assuming the persona. Lovers may be carefree and exchange kisses with many people, but it's not assumed to be the "real world" so please don't confuse an innocent kiss with an invitation to passion.