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What was Kissing Friday?


Millions are commemorating Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday this week, but what happened to the strange tradition of Kissing Friday?

Until about the start of World War Two, the girls of Yorkshire were allowed to finish school before their male colleagues - at least for one day a year. The reason was that boys were allowed, under a tradition of indeterminate origin, to kiss them without fear of getting a slap or being chased by an angry parent.

Under the rules of Kissing Friday, falling two days after Ash Wednesday, the tradition supposedly said that no girl was allowed to say no.

The Yorkshire Society say it has heard of the custom but doesn't know of its ancestry. However, Nancy Hudson, who lives in Redcar, North Yorkshire, remembers Kissing Friday happening when she grew up in Keighley in West Yorkshire.

On it, "boys could kiss the girls until 12 noon", she says, "but they had to catch them first, which resulted in much chasing round the schoolyard".

On the same day, things were even more fraught for girls - and women - in the village of Sileby in Leicestershire. Its variant of Kissing Friday was known as Nippy Hug Day. If any female spurned the offer of a kiss, the man or boy was allowed to pinch her bottom, a practice known as "lousing". Some boys strung ropes across the street to create a makeshift "toll" point, where they collected kisses.

These traditions, which apparently reached their zenith in the late-Victorian/Edwardian era, largely died out by the middle of the 20th Century. They would be unthinkable now but appear to have been uncontroversial at the time.

In 1938, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported how Kissing Friday had been "the" greatest day of the year among children before World War One and that boys had been kept behind after school for an hour to delay their approach. "Old people used to look on and enjoy it all, for it reminded them of their own young days," it added. The event was still being celebrated, but in a "less boisterous fashion than formerly".

A year later, in 1939, a letter quoted in the Leeds Mercury said there was "no evidence that the custom is being allowed to die. As part of the custom, the girls at local schools are allowed to go home before the boys are allowed out. But not all of the girls avail themselves of the opportunity."

But it seems clear that Kissing Friday faded soon afterwards. A reader was quoted in the Yorkshire Post in 1955, asking about its origins and those of yet another tradition, once prevalent in Cumbria's Eden Valley, called Nippy Lug - allowing people to pinch each other's ears without reproach for the day.

"Is it possible that these were commemorations of incidents in Our Lord's Passion - the agony in the garden, Judas's kiss of betrayal and Peter's cutting off the ear of Malchus, the high priest's servant?" the reader asked. Possibly they were, or possibly they marked more local historical events, or both. No one has offered a definitive explanation.

There was an attempt to revive Nippy Hug Day in Sileby during the 1970s, but it didn't last. By 1990 the Leicester Mercury quoted retired Popsy Gilbert as bemoaning that men, imbued with modern ideas of sexual equality, "don't seem very keen this year".

Re: What was Kissing Friday?

A fascinating account.
It was celebrated when I was at Eastwood - (I actually kissed the teacher! - way before the Everley Brothers) but I don't recall it at KBGS.

Current location (optional) Nirvana

Re: What was Kissing Friday?

I remember it well at Ingrow Juniors - a half day of great excitement, but don't recall the same enthusiasm at KBGS - probably due to the separation of the 2 sexes at secondary (grammar) level.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1958 - 1965

Current location (optional) Embsay nr Skipton

Re: What was Kissing Friday?

Ian's right, I think. I too remember it at Eastwood, maybe even the year I was at Parkwood (though there I learnt it wasn't just a one day a year privilege, regularly stopping for a peck with my girlfriend under the railway bridge down Strong Close as we walked home). Maybe a good thing we didn't keep up the tradition at KBGS; can't imagine, Terry, you'd have fancied kissing any of those teachers!


Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1951-58

Current location (optional) Keswick, Cumbria

Re: What was Kissing Friday?

A nice little piece this, Chris. I read it on my PC before walking down into town this morning and brought the subject up during conversations around the tables in my usual café. I could remember 'Kissing Fridays' during my Eastwood Infant School days, which started in 1939, but not so much during the Junior School years that followed. Other café customers chipped in with 'Winking Thursday' and 'Mucky Saturday'. Thursday needed no explanation but when I asked about 'Mucky Saturday', apparently you went around all day in your old clothes and never washed your hands and face!! Nice!

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1945-50

Current location (optional) Keighley

Re: What was Kissing Friday?

You just beat me with this one David. Winking Thursday always preceded Kissing Friday and then followed by Mucky Saturday, when I was at Lees Primary in Cross Roads. This was still in practice through the war Chris, up until at least 1945. Once we moved up to a Boys only school of course it wasn't so relevant. Life was so innocent at Primary school wasn't it. I remember dancing with the girls and sure there was the Hokey cokey, but our favourite dance was "Hands, knees and bumps-a-daisy because you could bump the girls backside, and vice versa, and it was all so much innocent fun. Cheers.

Current location (optional) Orewa, New Zealand

Re: What was Kissing Friday?

Remember it well . Yes it all had to be over by 12 oclock . Some of them took some catching especially one evacuee from London . She was the niece of Jack Train , the band-leader . The evacuees were a remarkable bunch, we would call them streetwise now , compared to the locals . They tucked there dresses into the tops of there knickers to do the crab and hand stands in the playground . Quite unheard of before they came on the scene.
Was Thursday of that week Mischief night or was that the day before bonfire night

Current location (optional) Tasmania

Re: What was Kissing Friday?

Mischief night was the night before bonfire night Mike. There were the regulars like "knock-a-door-run" where we tied together a few door handles of adjoining terrace houses and on a signal we would each knock on the door of a house at the same time. Then stood back and enjoyed ourselves laughing at the people trying to open their doors. Putting a cracker/banger through the letter box was a favourite, and another you could only do with a door which had a sneck and not a handle. Then we would place an upturned drawing pin in a dob of cow manure on the sneck and in our imagination could just visualise the next person to enter the house in the dark, pricking their thumb and getting a taste when they sucked it for comfort! Lastly, we might call into the local fish shop and ask how much do they charge for the salt and vinegar they put on the fish and chips. If the owners hadn't realised what night it was they would reply "nothing of course" Our reply was "right then, I'll have a bottle of vinegar and a packet of salt" then run like heck. Cheers.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1947-51

Current location (optional) Orewa, New Zealand

Re: What was Kissing Friday?

Mischief Night was the night before bonfire night, Mike, when you paid off old scores with grumpy neighbours, usually with rip-raps in dustbins and bangers through the letter box!

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1951-58

Current location (optional) Keswick, Cumbria

Re: What was Kissing Friday?

Yes , like Brian S above (we were in same class) I remember chasing girls around the playground at Ingrow Juniors .I always wanted to kiss one in particular, she was called Judith Sugden.

(PS Brian, I have a couple of old photos recently acquired with your good lady Carol on, but I dont have an email for you, I am brian.moate@btinternet.com)

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 58-64

Current location (optional) Wirral