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Tokens left from failed relationships are usually kept hidden, thrown away, or even burned as they often remind brokenhearted people of experiences they would rather forget; in Vietnam, however, such sentimental relics are put on display in the “Old Flames market”, where they can be purchased by interested customers.
Located in the capital city of Hanoi, the one-of-a-kind bazaar brimming with painful memories and emotional baggage is the brainchild of young entrepreneur Dinh Thang. He opened the market in February and it has grown significantly more popular with the help of social media.
According to the Agence France-Presse, Thang came up with the concept after going through bitter relationships himself, realizing that in every break-up, old lovers end up with objects that remind them of unhappy memories and can no longer bear to see. “Young people are more open-minded and they want to share deeply and widely to overcome pain, without suffering alone,” Thang was quoted as saying.
Once a month, the brokenhearted congregate to the market, bringing with them remnants from past relationships such as love letters, birthday cards, and scrapbooks to exchange or sell to others. Participants first need to join and share the story behind their souvenirs on the Old Flames Facebook page before they get selected by the market organizers.
Thang noted that the practice not only aids sad lovers in moving on but also contributes to protecting the environment since the trinkets are “recycled” and not thrown away. “I come here mostly for fun, and to share my love memories, not for profit. I want to contribute something to the true spirit of this fair,” one seller shared to local media.
There have been some critics expressed that the sentimental value of items sold in the market is something shared between the two lovers who originally owned them, so they should not be sold. Thang, however, is adamant that the fair offers a kind of therapy for some sellers. He noted that selling the items does not mean erasure, but more of a way to “stand up and keep on going with their lives”.