Hopefully most people know by now that Saint Valentine’s Day is not simply a retail holiday perpetrated onto unwitting consumers by greedy profiteers. It actually was first decreed by Pope Gelasius I way back in 496 and then gained currency as a day for exchanging tokens of affection during the High Middle Ages when courtly love was all the rage.
And even though today’s big retailers pimp VDay with such bizarre expressions of love as Sponge Bob baskets o’ cheap imported goods, there are still ways to celebrate that have meaning.
Fair trade or buy local?
Any Transitioner worth their salt knows that fair trade actually begins where you are. It’s an uncomfortable truth that in a de-globalizing world, it’s all about the locals. And here’s where I think you can really spread your love around today.
If you’re planning a romantic dinner at a restaurant, pick a locally owned haunt, particularly one that specializes in serving goods from area farms and producers. There’s nothing like that farm-to-fork taste!
Or, if you’re planning an intimate candle-lit repast at home, go to a locally-owned small scale grocer and load up on all the farm goods still available on the shelves in these chilly months.
Meats, cheeses, breads and baked goods can definitely be gotten even in the deep freeze of February. And if you’ve got a producer who works the cold frame, there may even be some winter produce to be had. These can be combined into a lovely food basket for your beloved or as an uplifting gesture to an elderly person or someone in need.
By all means, don’t forget the wine. Unless you’re one of our readers from Champagne, France, confine your bubbly-buying to whichever winery nearby carries the sparkling variety. Depending on where you live, local wines can be more expensive. Maybe that’s kept you from indulging thus far. Isn’t Valentine’s Day the perfect excuse to help support those vintners and give your dearly beloved something extra special?
Lot’s of guys love beer (and chicks, too, I’m not being sexist here, heaven forbid.) Just sayin’ a nice six pack of some regional craft brew might be just what touches your fella’s heart.
Art for art’s sake
If you’re passionate about gift-giving and your budget allows, think about hitting one of those local galleries for jewelry, textiles, a nice wooden box or cutting board made by local crafters and artisans.
Consider for a moment your locally-laboring herbalists. Whether you lust after giving or getting a sensual massage tonight, look to your co-op or health food store for locally pressed oils scented with aphrodisiac aromas. And if you’re the kind of person who really likes to spread the love around, hit a local shop during your lunch break and pick up some hand made soaps or herbal sprigs—whether culinary or aroma-therapeutic—for your work mates.
I say tie the gift together with some ribbon found around the house—something recycled is bound to be around. If not, buy a hand-spun, hand-dyed skein of yarn from one of your sheep farmers or textile artists and use it tonight. Get a few colors and keep it on hand for just this kind of special occasion (or learn to knit!).
There are also artists in the neighborhood who make cards, often from hand-made paper. Try to find the kind that you plant. It will grow into a nice patch of flowers for the coming season, delivering another dose of love down the line.
As for kids, there’s nothing they like better than quality time with you. Relocalize yourself and bake cookies together, make cards for each other, or just take a walk and look for winter birds.
Local won’t always cost more
On a final note, buying local is often more costly. I’m afraid that’s a future we’re going to have to get used to as distance starts to cost money and we rely less on the cheap exploited labor (and even the Fair Trade) of our brothers and sisters in far flung areas. Instead, we’ll focus more on supporting our brothers and sisters up close and in person. What this can help do is lessen the quantity of our purchases, thereby de-emphasizing unconscious consumption, while upping the quality and meaning of our purchases.
In a so-called Depression-era mentality, something as simple as a well-made blue cheese from one of our neighboring farmers can be a superior treat when indulged in on special occasions. Saving our money for these times, and living more simply overall, can actually add a feeling of balance as we voluntarily move with the seasons and open our eyes up to what is right around us. Not to say that blue cheese has to be a treat, just that we do have to begin to pick and choose more thoughtfully in an energy-intensive world.
Of course we’ll always have trade, and it’s not likely that many people reading this are going to stop buying cheap imported electronics any time soon, myself included. But maybe we can give up those Sponge Bob baskets, those giant synthetic stuffed animals, and flowers grown or soaps poured or even village-made goods crafted on the other side of the planet from wherever you are.
In an odd way based on how all of us today have lived thus far, it’s quite loving to consider the fuel-footprint that goes into anything you buy or consume. Earth and all her creatures gain that love. And that’s a really sweet Valentine.
— Lindsay Curren