Christmas brings out the bah humbugs in some people. Valentine’s Day can get a similar response, with people saying: “It’s a waste of time!”, “I ignore it because it’s so commercialised” or “The only people who like Valentine’s Day are the florists and the card manufacturers and sellers.”
But are they reasons to avoid Valentine’s, or excuses? My reply to those who don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day is simple: what on earth is so wrong with singling out one day in the year, apart from a significant anniversary, to take the time to say “I love you” to someone? Just as with Christmas, you don’t have to be cynical and buy into the commercialism and the hype. It’s your choice to bypass these and take the deliberate opportunity to tell someone they matter.
Bah humbug, you say. How exactly can I do that? Well it’s easy, since there are usually five main elements of Valentine’s Day – cards, presents, flowers, chocolates and meals.
Last year, Asda created a furore with their answer to the price of cards at this time, and created a value Valentine’s card that was just 7p. The message they got was that anyone getting such a card would feel insulted; that they would think they weren’t worth more. I guess I’d be insulted if that’s all I got – but what if it had its own personalised message or poem added to it, and some paper hearts and confetti or a photograph or ticket placed inside it? Or what if you made your own personalised card for someone through the various websites you can use, or made your own card, which my husband did last year using my scrapbooking materials?
Set a limit on presents. Since the day comes so soon after Christmas and our homes are probably already full of things we didn’t really need, and since the real value of these gifts is in the meaning, not the gift itself, we have a budget of £10. We can spend the money on one gift or any number of gifts up to £10. Since Valentine’s comes after the January sales, there’s no excuse not to get something nice, though many stores offer specific Valentine’s items from £1. So this year, my husband will get a heart-shaped casserole dish (as he loves cooking), a chocolate racing car (as he loves fast cars), and some love hearts.
I adore flowers, and roses in particular, but I just accept that they aren’t possible on our budget, and I’m happy with that as I’d rather have two bunches for the same price the next week. But a single rose doesn’t cost that much – you could buy a bunch and divide them up among friends who are doing the same thing, you could research the meaning of flowers and buy a plant that will last longer, or you could buy any number of flower-themed gifts. Or why not give them a packet of wild seeds or forget-me-nots and go somewhere special to scatter them?
Make your own truffles – they are so simple to make – as is rocky road, and you could put them in a small heart shaped box lined with tissue paper. With so many inexpensive chocolates about, you could decide either to get someone a box of their favourite chocolates, or a small gift that won’t break a diet.
Who says you must go out on the 14th to celebrate Valentine’s? Buy a voucher to get a bargain night out, take advantage of pre-theatre dinner deals the night before or after, or choose to go for lunch or breakfast instead. You could make your own special dinner, taking it in turns each year. If one of you is not a good cook, there’s no excuse with the special ready meals available now. Farm out your kids, or wait until they are in bed, explaining to them this is a special dinner for only you two, and explain why this is important. One day, they will understand this and remember your example. Or involve the whole family. It’s a celebration of love, after all, and you could have a Valentine-themed menu, to which everyone could contribute even if it’s krispie cakes with a chocolate heart on the top. Or you could buy heart-shaped marshmallows as I have, so we can all have a Valentine’s hot chocolate to celebrate.
And if you want some other ideas, why not try out these? “I Promise You” vouchers – you make your own voucher booklet or buy postcards and write out a few things you promise them over the next year. Hire or download one of your favourite movies, and buy a bottle of wine and some popcorn. Check out your local “What’s On” guide, as there’s bound to be any number of events on that are within your budget or free. Leave a post-it note or a card where they will find it later in the day.
Our lives are made up of our daily actions, and it is the normal day-to-day things we do that show someone we love them – that’s where the real romance lies. It’s lighting some candles, turning off the TV and stepping away from your phone. It’s a cup of tea after a hard day. It’s a short love letter arriving when you are away on business. It’s a warm bath and hot towels on a cold, wet winter’s night that’s waiting when you come in from a late night at work. It’s biting your tongue and breathing and then saying what you need to say in the way you would say it to someone you didn’t live with. It’s clearing the table and saying thank you for the meal you took time to cook. It’s remembering to cherish. It’s realising the value in being loved for who you are, and that life is short and there are no guarantees of tomorrow. So Vive la Romance! I’m grateful for the one-off chance in a busy year to slow down and deliberately say: “I love you,” but I’m just as grateful that for me, romance is a word that’s lived in little acts of thoughtfulness all year round.