Un-Cliché Your Valentine’s Day

gifts of kindness, natural world gifts, Valentine's Day alternatives,

Heart made while hiking. (Image by Sam Weldon)

Valentine’s Day may be about sharing love but it’s mostly expressed in clichéd sentiments and perfunctory presents. Last year, U.S. Valentine’s Day spending was 13.19 billion, an average of 116 dollars per consumer.  In a world that needs more love and less stuff, there are alternatives. That doesn’t mean giving up on cards, chocolate, and flowers if these expressions truly touch your heart. It means we can do more with the love we feel for people, our communities, and for the natural world—any day of the year.

Art-oriented

Find hearts everywhere. You can stop by a gallery or museum, finding hearts and other representations of love. Or challenge yourself to photograph hearts you see in nature and everyday objects.

Make original hearts. Create a heart out of something unexpected, try Legos or spoons or hammers. Then photograph it. Send it out via social media or print the image on cards. For a wealth of inspiration, check out Monday Hearts for Madalene.

Learn about symbolism of the heart. This shape has been painted on cave walls by Cro-Magnon people, showed up in ancient Minoan art, and appeared on 15th century playing cards. Assign loving symbolism to some other shape and use it as your secret language.

Kindness-oriented

Appreciate people in your community. Use children’s drawings as wrapping paper, tucking inside each one a piece of wrapped candy or other goodie, along with a note like “thanks for being so nice” or “you made my day.” Then stay on the lookout for a cheery cashier, helpful librarian, or kind friend to hand a surprise package. Find more ways kids can perform community service, toddler to teen, here. No kids? No problem. Wrap up tiny gifts and do the same thing. It cues us to see goodness everywhere.  

Put dollars to work. Give money out to your family and friends, with a caveat. Challenge recipients to do as much good as they can with $10 (or whatever denomination you choose), then report back with the results by a certain deadline. You might set up a Facebook event page for this so their ideas are shared. (Yup, side benefits. This boosts the happiness of the givers too.)

Say Thanks. Get in touch with Great Aunt Betty to say you appreciate advice she gave you decades ago, send a note of appreciation to a teacher who made a difference, call your parents to share a sweet memory from your childhood. (Again, side benefit, gratitude boosts your own health.)

Volunteer. Walk dogs at a shelter, or assemble backpacks for homeless people and hand them out, or deliver Meals on Wheels. For more ideas, check out Volunteer Match.

Commit good deeds anonymously.  Valentine’s week is also Random Act of Kindness week. Ideas? Smile at five strangers, leave quarters at the laundromat or in the change slot of vending machines, do someone else’s chore secretly, pay the tab for the next customer,  clean up someone else’s mess.

Gift-oriented

Make a scratch-off card. It takes paint and dish soap, that’s it. Make a love list card or one that reveals a surprise or come up with your own design.

Give gift certificates from locally owned businesses and organizations like a greenhouse, restaurant or coffee shop, massage therapist, art gallery, sports shop, bookstore. Or pay for a few hours of an local worker who specializes in home repair, house cleaning, or landscaping.

Give experiences. Go to the theater, take tai chi or weaving lessons, go horseback riding, attend a concert of music new to you, take a city tour, head to a skating rink, rent a houseboat,

Give gifts for a good cause. There are all sorts of nonprofit stores and charitable shopping sites. Try Water.org, One World Futbol, FreewatersSerrvGreater Good, Ten Thousand Villages, and ASPCA. Or get a gift from the gift shop of a non-profit in your area.

Nature-oriented

Plant something. Start seeds indoors for your garden. You might start extras to set up a seed or plant exchange.

Get out there. Picnic outside no matter what the weather, or hike somewhere new to you, or go outside after dark to look at the stars.

Build together. Make a fairy house in the woods using nearby sticks and rocks. Build a snow fort. Make a hide-out in the attic or backyard or anywhere you can enter the magic of hidden spaces.

Re-experience childhood delights. Swing on the swings, climb a tree, run a footrace, cook marshmallows over a campfire, play outdoor games.

Romance-oriented

Revive the mix-tape tradition. Put together a collection of tunes that says what you feel. In this instance, sappy is good. Even better reaction, put together a sexy playlist

Do something that scares you, together. Go bungee jumping or rock climbing or whatever gets your heart racing. Even a scary movie can be good for the love life.

Talk about first loves. Maybe just first crushes. It’s a way of tenderly exploring the inner world of your partner’s earliest years.

Make date night fascinatingly unexpected. Try an alternative identity date. Make up your own triathlon (competing in air hockey, tongue twisters, and onion ring eating). Participate in a mud run. Here are 35 ideas for never dull dates.

alternative Valentine's Day, do something fun,

Frosty front door handprints melt to reveal a surprise heart in my right palm. (Image: L. Weldon)

About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is a writer and editor, perhaps due to an English professor's scathing denunciation of her writing as "curious verbiage." She's the author of "Free Range Learning," a handbook of natural learning and "Tending," a poetry collection. (lauragraceweldon.com) She's working on her next book, "Subversive Cooking" (subversivecooking.com). She lives on Bit of Earth Farm where she is a barely useful farm wench. Although she has deadlines to meet she often wanders from the computer to preach hope, snort with laughter, cook subversively, talk to chickens and cows, discuss life’s deeper meaning with her surprisingly tolerant offspring, sing to bees, hide in books, walk dogs, concoct tinctures, watch foreign films, and make messy art.
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2 Responses to Un-Cliché Your Valentine’s Day

  1. Bernie DeKoven says:

    What a lovely, creative, inspiring post. Take back Valentine’s Day! Yes!

    Like

  2. Jesela says:

    Love these ideas so much that I’m sending them to my husband right now! :) Mixed tape (CD), here I come.

    Like

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