The Victorian Era continues to inspire and fascinate me. It was definitely not always positive – imperialism, slavery and poverty are not topics to be treated lightly. However, this particular topic neatly falls under the category of the whimsical, strange and, potentially, heartbreaking practise of the Victorians. An article on Atlas Obscura caught my attention yesterday and I felt compelled to spread the news (read the whole thing here).
Vinegar Valentines. An anti-Valentines tradition. And no, not an anti-capitalism/”Let’s be original by not celebrating this” – kind of tradition. But quite simply how to tell a suitor that you do not love them. Bluntly.
There were even proper cards made: “sent anonymously, so the receiver had to guess who hated him or her”. Damn.
Eventually they became political as well, targeting suffragettes — who quickly countered with pro-suffragette valentines.
(1870s “vinegar Valentine” Public Domain)
Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and I can’t help but wonder about the stories behind all this. How was it to receive them, to send them (a necessity, a joke?) and make them? From a writing point of view this feels like an excellent writing prompt and plot device for stories about jilted lovers, a heartbroken poet or persecuted suffragettes.
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I personally love Valentine’s Day, mainly thanks to my mother who used to give my sister and I chocolate and books. Not that the romantic aspect of Valentines can’t be fun when you are in a relationship, but I think I might prefer the joy of giving small gifts and hugs to whoever happens to be around me. And books. Books are an excellent gift, thanks mum.
For all readers out there, Happy Valentines Day!