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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
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.
I hope you find it informative and if you have anything to add, please send
it to me!
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
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.
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.
For more information on making a pomander and one's purpose in the overall
sceme of things, feel free to visit Christmas
In Hawaii or Camp Fire today.
For additional thoughts on the matter, you might wish to check into what
the Rialto Archives of
the Society for Creative Anachronism (commonly known as the S.C.A.) has to
say on the matter. (most specifically the information available in Stefan's
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
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 to
let the Lady decide, but that should not oblige you to becoming more intimate than you are comfortable with.
Ask for a demonstration!
From Cultural Primer - SCA in Atlantic Canada
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.
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!
- * 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
- * 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!).
- * 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
- * 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
- 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.
Special thanks to James Potthast for assistance in providing
information for this page!