Bundling is another fun and folksy tradition that seems pretty strange today.
The basic idea is: a boy and a girl like each other and want to get to know each other better. However everyone lives in tiny houses with tons of people so there is no privacy. Also it’s winter and the house is cold. So what do you do? You throw those two crazy kids into bed with a board between them for propriety’s sake and let them chat all night. (It also helped to conserve candles and firewood- practical!)
An alternate version was tying each person up in a sack to their necks so that no hanky panky could happen.
How well the practice actually worked at upholding good American morals is anyone’s guess- Washington Irving noted “that wherever the practice of bundling prevailed, there was an amazing number of sturdy brats born” so maybe it didn’t work so well after all.
There were even popular songs about it:
Nature’s request is, give me rest,
Our bodies seek repose;
Night is the time, and ’tis no crime
To bundle in our cloths.
Since in a bed, a man and maid
May bundle and be chaste;
It doth no good to burn up wood
It is a needless waste.
Let coat and shift be turned adrift,
And breeches take their flight,
An honest man and virgin can
Lie quiet all the night.
It seems to have been most common in colonial America and had pretty much died out everywhere by the 20th century, after being practiced by the Amish for some time beyond everyone else.
It seems like a kind of warm and cozy first date- maybe I will add it to my OkCupid profile. What do you think, would you like to bundle up with someone this winter?
You can read a LENGTHY 1930’s treatise on the practice here if you are interested.