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24 September 2014
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Traditions reveal a romantic county
We seem to have found a lot of love in the Norfolk air. But what do you think: is it Britain's top region of romance or is the county full of valentine humbugs?
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Each year on February 14, millions of valentine’s cards are exchanged across the world.

But traditionally people in Norfolk make an extra effort to get those hearts fluttering.

In the year 2000, one Cupid pretender treated the residents of a Norwich street to a valentine’s surprise. People in Muriel Road woke up to find biscuits with heart stickers stuck to their doors, gates and cars.

animated heart

Although this was more of a prank than a custom, the county has a long heritage of valentine traditions.

In Victorian times, Norfolk lovers went to great lengths to anonymously swap parcels on February 13. Back then more money was often spent on valentine’s gifts than Christmas presents.


In Norfolk it was customary to send a gift to your sweetheart. In other parts of Britain, a solitary love letter or card would do.

Valentine’s Eve
Across the county, Valentine’s Eve was as eagerly anticipated as Christmas Eve and it was very good humoured. People would fill a bag with love tokens to give away. They would bump into friends in the street and share jokes along the way. little heart

When they arrived at the home of their lover, they would knock on the door, leave a present and run off before they were seen.

Hopefully, the valentine would be out and you would return home to find your own doorstep covered with parcels.


Because Valentine's Day was such an extravagant custom in Norfolk, jokers saw it as a perfect opportunity to pull off hoaxes.

Those unlucky in love would be mocked with a huge present left outside their house. After unwrapping lots of layers of paper, the unhappy recipient would then be reduced to tears by a nasty scribbled comment.

Others would open their door after hearing a rat-tat-tat only to be laughed at by somebody hidden away.

Jack Valentine
The only surviving Norfolk ritual is Jack Valentine, otherwise known as Old Father Valentine or Old Mother Valentine. The enigmatic Mr or Mrs Valentine disappear into thin air after knocking at the door and dropping off their gifts.

It is unclear when this mystery figure first emerged but children are as likely as adults to receive a visit. During the early 20th century, youngsters would probably be given an offering bought from the village shop while lovers would be more generous.

Although little is known about the history of Jack Valentine, it is a popular custom. We have even had an e-mail from a Norfolk expatriate living in America who says she plans to continue the tradition for her eight-year-old daughter. If you know more about this Norfolk ritual then send us an e-mail.

In the 1800s, Norfolk children would set out before dawn to sing rhymes in exchange for sweets, cakes and pennies. One favourite local verse was:

small rose

Good morrow, Valentine,
God bless the baker,
You'll be the giver,

And I'll be the taker.

Once it was light, their requests could be turned down because they were said to be sunburnt.

Local customs
little heartOn the whole, the county’s customs were more gracious than those practiced elsewhere.

Girls in Derbyshire would pray that their boyfriend called on Valentine’s Day. If he did not bother she was deemed ‘dusty’. She would then be humiliated by her family or friends who had to clean her with a broom or straw.

If you have any local memories about Valentine's Day then
send us an e-mail.

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