Disclaimer: I’m really not into holidays much- I grew up with a mom who was a Jehovah’s Witness so we never celebrated them. Therefore, it’s not something I have strong connections with- no nostalgia, memories, or traditions tied in. I know this sounds really ascetic and miserly, but it wasn’t and I’m actually really grateful, because I don’t feel pressure to participate in what I feel can tend to be overly materialistic aspects of holidays. It’s pretty freeing to just spend time with family and give small and meaningful gifts from the heart as I feel inspired to, instead of on a specific date set in place by capitalistic white patriarchy: I love the quote from that article- “practically everything in every store you walk into has some sort of Valentine’s Day limited edition, overpriced junk. Rational people ransack the joints, and leave with packages of third world manufactured festivity supplies that will tomorrow find their way to third world landfills. Sentiments, probably born in some gray cubicle, are expressed in cards written by someone else, somewhere else.” Anyways….I’m not really an expert on holidays so forgive my mistakes if I overlook aspects of them.
At Carmela’s school, they exchange valentines. I can’t control what things are given to her, but I can control what we give out. I volunteered to make the cookies for their class party so that they were healthy-ish and not bought in plastic from Costco as has happened in the past. She makes her own valentines every year, from recycled materials such as brown paper bags, the backside of once used paper, old wrapping paper, even pretty chocolate bar wrappers we’ve cut up and used.
Gold foil from chocolate make a great decoration to cut out too. For paste, I do an easy homemade flour and water paste– its messy and it doesn’t hold up forever but it’s fun and biodegradable. Be careful to find out if any kids in the class have gluten sensitivities if you use it since it does have flour.
As little favors to go with the Valentine’s in lieu of plastic toys or candies, we made some candied orange peels with the leftover peels from local organic navel oranges we ate. They’re really easy- just basically peel, slice into thin strips and then boil in simple syrup- this recipe works great. I dip in melted chocolate after. A good quick option would be bulk candy in a little paper bag or diy envelope/pouch. We are also adding in little “treasures”- a marble, bit of sea glass, crystal, shell, pretty rock, dried flower, bead- I’ve found that younger kids really love these things and they can be free things you’ve found or repurposed.
I attach the Valentines to the paper pouch with a bit of biodegradable jute twine. One year, we gave sunflower seed packets and they were a hit, too.
For the cookies, the teacher requested I make the same ones I made for their Christmas party, which are these Hot for Food gingerbread cookies. I’ll cut them into hearts and add a little beet juice or cranberry powder to the icing for a natural pink. You could probably sub chilled coconut oil for the vegan butter but one of the kids in the class has an allergy. I bring them in on one big plate and the teacher uses compostable paper napkins to serve (the school has a worm compost in their garden!)
If you’re thinking about giving flowers to someone, I’d suggest a gorgeous living plant instead to bring joy and life into your loved ones’ space for much longer and its so much more environmentally friendly. Or homegrown flowers!
Plus, who isn’t obsessed with plants? From a little succulent to a big handsome fiddle leaf fig, there’s an option for everyone. Orchids are beautiful and the blooms last several months, and can keep blooming for years. Below is a monstera that my husband gave me a couple years ago. Since then I’ve propagated and divided it into a couple new plants, given a few away to others, and it’s brought me joy every day.
If you can, choose fair trade and organic chocolate or ideally, buy locally if possible. If you’re in Sacramento, Ginger Elizabeth’s is delicious and really nice about putting stuff in your own container. You can also DIY this 5 minute chocolate bark from the archives that is infinitely customizable and looks like a million bucks.
For cards, personally I always appreciate getting a handmade card or even just a piece of pretty paper with heartfelt words rather than a premade card with a regurgitated message and signature. I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel loved and appreciated to receive a lovely note, poem, etc. A wonderful gift on Valentines is a book that celebrates self love- like Rupi Kaurs Milk and Honey + The Sun and Her Flowers.
However you celebrate or don’t celebrate this February 14th, I hope you have a wonderful day and bask in your self love. If you get a teddy bear and unethical chocolate and lingerie and red roses and a hallmark card it’s ok too. It’s wonderful to be alive and I love you all xx