Valentine’s Day has been celebrated in some sense since the fifth century as the Feast of St. Valentine. However, the holiday we’re more familiar with is one that’s been highly commercialised by greeting’s card companies in an attempt to convince us all to spend excessive amounts on gifts, cards, flowers, and romantic meals.
This Valentine’s tradition is not only a materialistic capitalist, construct, but it’s bad for the environment and incredibly expensive (not great on a student budget!)
However, it’s not that easy to just forgo the holiday completely. Not only might you upset your partner, but, even though these traditions are based on overconsumption, they’re still culturally important to us. There’s nothing wrong with the celebration of love, but making rich men in suits even richer while contributing to the destruction of the environment isn’t the best reflection of romance and your feelings.. Not to mention that a lot of the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day only represents heteronormative, romantic love.
It can be tempting to want to spoil someone by spending loads of money on them to show how much you care about them, but thoughtful gifts you’ve put time and effort into are much more sentimental.
Handmade gifts are the most budget-friendly option. Some things you could craft include:
- A piece of art that they can put on their wall.
- Bake them something! Cookies, muffins, or some fresh bread would go down a treat.
- A scrapbook or photo album of memories together.
- A framed photo of you both.
- Upcycle a glass bottle into a vase or candlestick holder with some paints.
- A curated Spotify playlist or mixtape.
- Small Businesses (or more ethical organisations) are a great place to find gifts if you aren’t the creative type.
- Etsy is a great place to find people selling their crafts. Some I recommend include: LucyReedArtPrints, HandmadeAnnabel and Samarikoo
Other small businesses and ethical organisations include:
- Adopt an endangered animal with the WWF for just £3 and you get an adorable stuffed toy you can give to them on the day.
- Shared Earth near the Minster sells a great range of ethical, sustainable, and recycled gifts
- Just Smile Designs is a locally run business with a website and shop at 5 Bootham which sells incredibly cute giftable items.
- Charity Shops are also a great place to look. You might also find the odd hidden gem or wildcard.
The ‘traditional’ Valentine’s date night is splashing out on a fancy meal out in a restaurant packed with other couples. Why not go out on a different day to avoid the crowds? There’s no real reason you need to celebrate on the 14th, especially with it falling on a Monday this year. You could also go out for lunch or breakfast instead. Celebrate at a date and time that works for you!
Going out to local independent restaurants instead of chains is a great way to support local small businesses, these are some of my recommendations:
- Plush Cafe on Stonegate
- The Orchid Vegan Restaurant
- Forest on Low Petergate
- Delrio’s Restaurant on Blossom Street
- Double Dutch Pancake House on Church Street
Instead of forking out for a movie and a meal out, you could stay in and cook together for a more intimate evening, and watch your favourite films or series at home. Or if you want that cinema experience, York Student Cinema is showing Twilight on the 14th, and The King’s Man and The Matrix Resurrections later that week for just £4 a ticket.
You don’t necessarily need to have a meal together at all. Spend the day in a way you and your partner would enjoy most, which could be anything, such as staying in and playing games together, going out for drinks, or going to a sporting event.
Sending cards is a huge part of Valentine’s tradition, but they’re also a huge profit-maker and contribution to waste. If you usually don’t say much in cards and the tradition isn’t that important to you, you could just not bother with them at all. If you want to pour your heart out, consider writing a love letter instead. Making your own cards is a great way to avoid buying them, and at the same time save some money and add more of a personal touch.
Keeping your cards and notes instead of eventually throwing them away lets you hold onto the memories while avoiding contributing to post-Valentine’s landfill.
Imported flowers have a massive impact on the environment. If you want to give someone flowers, maybe pick some from your own garden (if that’s an option) or buy locally grown flowers.
If you’re in a long distance relationship, sending flowers on Valentine’s Day can be a great way to surprise someone. There are lots of online flower companies that offer this kind of service across the country, but for a more ethical, better quality bouquet, try finding a local florist in their area and contacting them to arrange sending those flowers.
If you do want to deviate from convention, it’s probably best to first discuss this with your partner about what would be the best thing for both of you. Some traditions are particularly important to some people, and we don’t want any disappointment on the day if you were to forgo one. All in all, anything that refocuses the day on people, rather than spending, is a great way to reclaim Valentine’s Day. Lastly, it doesn’t just have to be about romantic love. Celebrate your love for your friends and family too.