Written by Camilla King

Misc

Old Father Valentine

While many may scoff about Valentine’s Day as a commercial cauldron of hearts and flowers, those who hail from Norfolk have a much more romantic view. Allow Camilla King to explain.

Photo by Johntex, via Wikimedia Commons.

I know, I know, Valentine’s Day has a bad rep, good only for keeping card companies and florists in business and providing irritating people on social media with an opportunity to show everyone else how perfect their relationship is #loveyousomuchbabe #flowers #triptoparis.

I confess, though, that I adore Valentine’s Day, and it’s not just because there’s a romantic fool of a 15 year-old girl alive and kicking inside me – it’s also thanks to an old Norfolk tradition. That’s right, Norfolk is not just the home of Colman’s Mustard, Alan Partridge and, well, not much else, it’s also the birthplace of Father (in some families Jack, or even Mother) Valentine.

It’s believed that Father Valentine was started by those lovers of all things festive, the Victorians, and for many Norfolk families, it’s up there with any of the other main seasonal celebrations. As a child, 14 February was by far my favourite day of the year, even more so than Christmas, and it’s perfectly timed to break up the monotony of an interminable winter.

“I remember breathless shrieks of delight, nerves hammering over strange old Father Valentine hiding outside, but any concerns cancelled out by sweets, trinkets and new books.”

Stemming from the original tradition of lovers sending anonymous cards, Father Valentine ups the ante by leaving mysterious gifts on the doorsteps of loved ones. The best part is that this isn’t just for sweethearts; pretty much anyone can get involved, but it’s especially aimed at young children.

There’s something exciting, magical, and I promise only slightly creepy, about the ring of the doorbell followed by a dash down the hall, opening the door to darkness, silence, and a little parcel on the ground. Rushing back inside to tear off the wrapping, barely even seeing the gift before the doorbell sounds and the process starts again.

I remember breathless shrieks of delight, nerves hammering over strange old Father Valentine hiding outside, but any concerns cancelled out by sweets, trinkets and new books. I can’t wait to do it with my own kids this year.

Even my granddad, well into his 80s, would leave a Budgens’ bag (because their custard creams were 2p cheaper than the Co-op) of flowers and biscuits on the doorstep for my gran to discover. As a little girl this gesture of love struck me as incredibly romantic, and it sums up the whole tradition for me.

Father Valentine is all about small displays of love. While there’s nothing wrong with extravagant gifts, the older I get, the more I understand that it’s the little things that matter.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a horrible commercial load of nonsense. It can be an opportunity to say, “I love you”, not just to your partner, but to your family and friends, anyone who you care about, really. And what’s not to love about that?

@millking2301

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Written by Camilla King

Freelancer in the arts. Unwilling expert on Batman, dinosaurs and poo (there are children) and running widow of @UpDownRunner. Lover of music, cake and lady stuff. @millking2301