It’s February, and stores are chock full of red and pink goods of all sorts. Roses are everywhere, and shiny advertisements promise us romance and happiness if only we buy the product being shilled by the smiling couple depicted upon them. 18.9 billion dollars are spent every year on Valentine’s Day gifts. It seems excessive, and it becomes almost sinister when you think of the fact that many traditional Valentine’s Day products are tied to human trafficking and labor exploitation. Both the chocolate and flower industries have a dark side, as well as the clothing and even lingerie industries. (Have you watched Orange Is The New Black? Yep, some underwear is really manufactured by prisoner labor!)
And beside that, do we really need to give cheap stuffed animals and mediocre chocolates to show our affection for one another? I’d like to propose that this year, those of us who enjoy celebrating the “day of love” do so without engaging in the consumerism that surrounds the holiday. It’s better for people (the workers involved in making the goods that we consume), it’s better for the planet, and I’d venture to say that it’s even better for our souls.
Here are a few tips to enjoy celebrating love on Valentine’s Day (or any day!) without the needless consumption:
1. Plan a trip.
Rather than spending money on stuff, spend it on travel — even if it’s just a tiny weekend road trip. Bring a camera and take lots of photos! Travel tends to make us happier than material things, and the memories and good feelings will last far longer than a bouquet of flowers and a fancy dinner.
2. Spend time together.
Give the gift of your time. Unplugged, undivided attention. Just talk, or do something together that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t found the time for.
3. Make something.
Take a pottery class. Build something for your home together. Learn how to carve a wooden spoon or do a bit of landscaping or buy a big canvas to paint. By letting your creativity soar, you might learn something new about each other!
4. Get Active.
Go out dancing! If dancing isn’t your thing, take a hike, or attend a yoga class together.
5. Experience something beautiful.
Some of my favorite memories from my own relationship are the mornings where my partner and I get up early, grab a picnic blanket and some thermoses full of coffee and tea, and drive somewhere to watch the sunrise (usually over a lake or a river). Try an early morning nature walk and marvel at the dew-laced leaves and spider’s webs, drive to the ocean and just watch the waves, or find a quiet place to stargaze.
6. Relive memories.
Pour a glass of wine or brew up some tea and pull out an old photo album or two! Reminiscing about past memories and milestones can be so romantic, and can also be a great time of reflection. I like popping some popcorn and pulling out an old video or two sometimes as well- Old trips, that awkward wedding home video, or even childhood video clips.
7. Laugh together.
Laughing together is fun! Plus, it helps us bond to one another, relieves stress, and has a host of other physical and emotional benefits. Plan a night in playing a board game that always makes you laugh! Alternately, go see a funny play or art exhibit, or grab tickets to a comedy show. As a bonus, you’ll be supporting your local arts community.
8. Do some good together.
Volunteering together and watching each others’ compassion in action can bring out a new aspect to your appreciation for one another. Plus, turning Valentines Day’s focus on love toward loving others or loving mother earth is a fun twist to the holiday if you’re a non traditionalist who really doesn’t like the holiday all that much to begin with. Perhaps there is a women’s shelter that needs volunteers to put on a Valentine’s Dinner for residents. Try visiting a nursing home with an armload of valentines, volunteering for an ocean cleanup (who doesn’t love long, romantic, trash-gathering walks on the beach?), or even playing with puppies for a day at the humane society!
However you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate), and whomever you celebrate it with, Remember that there are no rules for Valentine’s Day and that you can make it meaningful for you and the ones you love however you’d like!