‘It’s very commercialised’: the rise of the anti-Valentine’s Day movement

From cards reading ‘Meh’ to a ball celebrating ‘hate, venom and gore’, some Britons refuse to buy in to mainstream celebrations

One card reads “Happy unimaginative consumerist entirely arbitrary manipulative shallow interpretation of romance day”, “Meh” – emblazoned on a pink heart – is the message on another, while an animal charity offers the opportunity to have your ex’s name printed on the bottom of a litter tray.

An anti-Valentine’s Day movement is sweeping across the country, and suddenly there are all sorts of ways to mark 14 February that don’t involve hearts or flowers.

“Valentine’s Day is not something that everyone likes to celebrate – it’s very commercialised, everything is about love, love, love,” said Floribeth Pena de Amador, founder of the Happy Book Place, an online gift shop.

The Happy Book Place’s ‘V is for video games’ mug
The Happy Book Place’s ‘V is for video games’ mug is sold on Etsy. Photograph: TheHappyBookPlace

“I think people are honestly fed up with the day.”

Amador recently created “anti-Valentine’s Day” mugs stating that V is for vodka and video games, to capitalise on the trend. “Some Valentine’s Days, you are alone, with a broken heart. And you just want to make yourself happier. So why not buy something for yourself?”

On the popular online marketplace Etsy, a wide range of anti-Valentine’s Day cards, T-shirts and stickers are on sale.

“I don’t need a Valentine, I need a nap,” one jumper reads. “Ew, Valentine’s Day” and “Cupid rhymes with stupid” both feature, too.

While a few of the anti-Valentine’s Day cards celebrate being single most are aimed at couples who eschew stereotypical declarations of love.

World Of Twigg’s anti-Valentine’s Day cards
World Of Twigg’s anti-Valentine’s Day cards are also sold on Etsy. Photograph: WorldOfTwigg

“I suppose you’ll do” and “I love you because you’re just like me and I am the best” are among the most romantic.

Earlier this week, Bristol Animal Rescue Centre began inviting its supporters to donate £5 to have the first name of a person of their choice written on the bottom of a cat litter tray.

The charity is filming the cats they have rescued using the trays and will share the “photo or video evidence” on social media each day up until Valentine’s Day. “We’ve had quite a bit of demand so far,” said a spokesperson, Gina Jones.

The anti-Valentine’s fundraiser means those who think the tradition is exclusionary or over-commercialised can still do something positive for a charity, Jones said. “If you want to be romantic, that’s lovely. But there are people who don’t really like that.”

At one Etsy shop, World Of Twigg, sales of anti-Valentine’s cards have overtaken sales of Valentine’s cards this year. “I’m almost sold out of them now,” said a card designer, Holly Showell.

She finds Valentine’s Day “completely pointless”. She said: “I’m in a relationship and I don’t need to buy the person I love loads of stuff on Valentine’s Day. I can just tell him that I love him every day.”

It is ironic, she acknowledged, that a card she designed to express her own anti-consumerist feelings towards Valentine’s Day is selling so well. “I designed it because I was fed up with Valentine’s Day. And it’s just become really popular.”

Royal Vauxhall Tavern
Revellers dress up at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Photograph: FD Photo

At the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in southeast London, 14 February will be celebrated with “hate, venom and gore” at an anti-Valentine’s Day ball.

Planned activities include a “crap Valentine’s Day card” competition, a ‘blind date’ gameshow featuring characters from horror movies and a “broken-hearted disco” where attenders can only dance to famous songs about relationship break-ups.

“The normal fare on offer on Valentine’s Day is quite cliched and not particularly interesting,” said the promoter, Paul Joseph. “People want to mark the day by doing something that’s reflective of their sentiments towards it.”

Tickets to the ball cost £15 and, despite all the uncertainties that surround any event during the pandemic, it is currently on track to sell out. Joseph thinks this is because both couples and single people are rebelling against the idea that they must celebrate Valentine’s Day in a particular way. “I think that irritates people,” he said.

Juliet O’Brien, founder of WaxyWix, decided to create her range of “sassy” – and often sweary – anti-Valentine’s Day candles for similar reasons. She dislikes the sense of being obliged to buy roses and go out for dinner because it’s Valentine’s Day. “Prices are hiked up and you feel like you’ve got to celebrate it.”

WaxyWix’s anti Valentine’s Day candle.
WaxyWix’s anti-Valentine’s Day candle. Photograph: Chris Houghton

Her candles are designed to appeal to both couples and friends. “One of our candles says: ‘roses are red, chocolates are brown, you’re getting neither so calm the F-word down.’”

Valentine’s Day is no longer an Americanised “Hallmark card” type of holiday, she said. “It’s almost like we are reclaiming it, saying: this is how we want to celebrate it.”


Donna Ferguson

The GuardianTramp

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