For Newburyport’s history buffs, Valentine’s Day is coming a little early this year.
The Historical Society is hosting a holiday-themed dinner on Sunday during which they will share some of the city’s great love stories and celebrate the spirit of romance that filled the city in days gone by.
Before the Valentine’s Day dinner at Ten Center Street is served, Historical Society of Old Newbury curator Jay Williamson will give a short presentation that details the dating scene in Newburyport during the 18th and 19th centuries. He’ll share fun tidbits and stories about real couples, love affairs and the lovelorn and scorned, from the mid-1800s to the turn of the century.
“There’s going to be a lot of fun highlights,” Williamson said. The Historical Society began hosting the event three years ago as an alternative for couples seeking to have a nice Valentine’s Day dinner — but on a weekend evening without having to share the restaurant with the same crowds that the holiday can generate.
“I think it takes a lot of pressure out of going out on Valentine’s Day on a weeknight when it’s harder to get reservations,” Williamson said.
Among the topics Williamson plans to discuss is the transition in dating that occurred from one century to the next.
In the 18th century, couples would take time to get to know each other well, including each other’s faults, dislikes and interests, in order to determine if there were enough of a connection for the two to ultimately fall in love, Williamson said.
“There was really a dialogue of getting to know one another,” he said. “A lot of it factored into the ability to fall in love in time.”
Beginning in the 19th century, couples fell in love, and then determined if their relationship was enough to build a marriage on, he added.