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Do you remember this mysterious Norfolk Valentine’s tradition?

PUBLISHED: 11:55 13 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:30 13 February 2020

Jack Valentine playing tricks on local children. Illustration: Annette Hudson

Jack Valentine playing tricks on local children. Illustration: Annette Hudson

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It’s a historic Valentine’s tradition which began in Norfolk - and while it might be a mystery to some, plenty of families are keeping it alive and kicking.

The Jack Valentine ritual would see the character - otherwise known as Old Father Valentine or Old Mother Valentine - disappear into thin air after knocking at the door and dropping off gifts.

While today it is largely done within families, during the early 20th century youngsters might even be given an offering bought from the village shop by a neighbour.

But Jack Valentine - like Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny - was usually played by parents to bring some excitement to their children's Valentine's Day.

For many, the tradition has faded as time has passed, but on our Norwich Remembers Facebook page, dozens of people have been keeping its memory live.

Heather Sweeney said: "Yes it's a Norfolk thing , I'm 69 always when I was little, done for my girls and my grandson."

Michelle Peek said: "Yes, a tradition through my family ♥️ he knocks, he runs, but he always leaves a gift."

And Pamela Mollicone said: "Yes I do it for my grandchildren, I get my husband to drive while I get out leave gifts on the door step knock on the door and quick getaway."

Simon Green said he took the tradition overseas, and was met with "bewildered confusion" from his neighbour.

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Dave Tonge said: "In some houses he visited on the 13th, Valentine's eve, but in ours he knocked and still knocks loudly on the evening of the 14. In some houses he towed the gift wrapped in newspaper down the garden path, attached to a piece of string.

"In ours it was and still is simply left upon the doormat for us to pick up. In some hoses he left sweets. In ours it was and still is simple gifts like marbles, crayons, plasticine, or maybe if you were lucky even a spud gun."

He later said he had heard of Norfolk people who had taken the tradition to Australia.

Jane Thorne said it "used to be such fun".

"Little presents pulled away as we tried to pick them up, a box of apples once came flying through the back door as we opened it. Simple pleasures," she said.

Pamela Wyatt reflected on what she used to get, and said: "Not now days but it was lovely when I was a kid little gifts left on the doorstep by him on Valentine Day. One I can remember was a few chocolates and a red/white striped pencil with a fluffy head on it."

READ MORE: 'We used to wrap up potato peelings' - readers share their Jack Valentine memories


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