7 Reasons it Must Have Been Terrible to Celebrate Your Wedding Anniversary in the 1930s
In the 1930s it was decided (presumably by purveyors of gifts) that there weren’t enough things associated with anniversaries and a more comprehensive anniversary gift list was created. Fortunately for contemporary celebrants of anniversaries, since then the list has been modernised. This is no bad thing as I’ve seen a copy of the original list. Here are seven reasons that it must have been terrible to celebrate your anniversary in the 1930s.
1. Wood. On the original list, the fifth anniversary is wood. This is rather fitting for the era because, after five long years of marriage, the celebration of their fifth wedding anniversary may well have been one of the last occasions that a married couple got wood. Rather mean to remind them of that though.
2. Willow/Copper. The ninth anniversary is a terrifying prospect. According to the BBC (they who must be believed), after nine years you get the willow/copper anniversary. The only feasible combination of willow and copper that comes to my mind is a policeman with a cane. Imagine your surprise and delight when you sit down with your wife and she says, “Happy anniversary darling, here’s a rozzer to beat you with a stick.” That doesn’t sound like too much fun to me. Perhaps it was more fun back then.
3. Aluminium/Tin. Times were clearly hard in the ‘30s and though your tenth anniversary present would be an improvement on the previous year’s beating, it wouldn’t be much of one as you’re likely to be presented with something in a tin or in an aluminium can. This can mean only one thing: food. But in the 1930s people didn’t have normal food, they had weird food: tins of tongue; tins of luncheon meat; tins of potatoes. Is being presented with a tin of tongue even any better than being beaten by a policeman? Well, should you have had your anniversary in the 1930s, you’d be in a great position to judge.
4. Ivory. After fourteen years of wedded bliss – assuming you’d recuperated from your beating by the forces of law and order five years previously and eating your tongue the following year – it was time for the real presents to begin. For your fourteenth anniversary, you could have expected to receive something without which no home is complete; a bit of an elephant. Obviously your gift wouldn’t be in the form of a bit of an elephant, it would be a bit of one of those useless lumbering creatures from the other side of the world turned into something far more practical, like a letter-opener or a cruet set.
5. China. For your twentieth anniversary you would have received the best gift of all, after which all other anniversary presents would come as an anticlimax. For your twentieth anniversary you could expect to receive the nation of China. Now China back then was war-ravaged and in the economic doldrums, rather than being the titan that it is now, but still, a whole country is an impressive gift. All anniversaries after the twentieth would be a huge disappointment.
6. Pearl/Ivory. After thirty years, while modern couples are receiving their first diamonds, couples using the traditional anniversary list are in for a rare treat. They can expect to relive that fondly remembered fourteenth anniversary on which they received a bit of an elephant only now, as if the bit of an elephant weren’t enough of a treat, they can expect it to be augmented by a bit of calcium carbonate that had been stolen from a fish. Yay!
7. Blue Sapphire. After sixty-five years of marriage, the compilers of the list clearly believe that senility will have kicked in because you’re going to get a sapphire again, but this time it’s going to be a blue one (which will be so much better than the beige one you got for your 45th). “Look darling”, your husband will bellow into your ear trumpet, “I bought you a blue sapphire…it’s blue!”. “Well, fancy” you’ll respond, “a blue sapphire. Well I never! Are these my feet?”
And now, I have a confession to make: tomorrow is my wedding anniversary (and my wife’s). I’m not going to tell you which one, but you might be able to guess, as this is what I’ve got her. Feel free to wish me luck!