by Ellen Castelow
The Friday after Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday is Kissing Friday.
You may wonder why you haven’t heard of this strange custom. This could be because it has now died out, but until the mid-20th century, on this day a schoolboy could kiss a girl without fear of a slap or a telling off! Unthinkable nowadays, but the custom was especially popular in the Victorian and Edwardian era.
If the boys wanted to the kiss the girls, first of all they had to catch them! Some boys would tie ropes across the street: the girls would have to pay for passage past the rope with a kiss. Others would simply chase the girls until they caught them. Indeed, Kissing Friday was the one day in the year when schoolgirls were allowed to leave school early, in order to avoid being chased home by the boys.
In the village of Sileby in Leicestershire the day was known as ‘Nippy Hug Day’. Here, if the girl did resist a kiss, the boy was allowed to pinch her bottom, an action known as ‘lousing’, a curious – and slightly disturbing – reference to pinching off lice.
In parts of Cumbria, the day was known as ‘Nippy Lug Day’: yes, bizarrely the aim was to pinch each others ears!