Love is in the air again. Stores are filled with heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and giant stuffed animals that read, “Be My Valentine” on the front. Florists are overstocking roses in preparation for the one day of the year that consumers will want them by the truckloads. Don’t even think about getting a reservation at the nicest restaurants in town — they’re already taken. Valentine’s Day has become nothing more than a day where lovers go to extravagant lengths to prove their love to one another.
The legend of St. Valentine still remains a mystery; however, there’s speculation as to how the holiday originated. According to history.com, one legend states that Valentine was a “Roman priest during the third century who disagreed with Emperor Claudius II’s decree that outlawed marriage for young men. He defied the law by continuing to marry couples in secret and was put to death for his actions.” Another legend states that Valentine, himself, sent the first “valentine” greeting to a love interest while imprisoned and signed the letter, “From your Valentine.”
Regardless of how Valentine’s Day originated, the holiday was meant to celebrate love. It’s meant to celebrate not only lovers, but family and friends as well. Here are a few ideas of how to celebrate love without giving in to commercialism.
Spread the Love: Volunteer
There are many opportunities around the city to help others by volunteering. A good place to start is the Baton Rouge Food Bank. It’s always in need of volunteers to help sort and deliver food to those in need. Check out the organization’s website (brfoodbank.org) for more information and available opportunities. Volunteers of America is another great place for resources.
Helping those who are less fortunate isn’t the only way to spread the love — animals need love too. Spend the day at an animal shelter. Most of those animals get very little social interaction and are in desperate need of attention. Take a dog for a walk or play a game of fetch and spend time learning about the animal’s story. It’s amazing what some of these animals have lived through and what stories they have to tell. Companion Animal Alliance, Friends of the Animals, Project Purr and For the Love of Rats are just a few of the rescue shelters in the area.
Search for Love: Scavenger Hunt
For those who are looking for a creative and fun way to strengthen your relationship, try a scavenger hunt. Think of meaningful destinations that only the two of you would enjoy. For example, go to where you two first met or recreate your first date. Recreate the moment where you first fell in love. Ideas for a scavenger hunt are endless — get creative!
Love Under the Stars
Highland Road Park Observatory is another great place to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The observatory brings out the professional telescopes for the public to stargaze. For those who are into astronomy or want to learn more about the moon and stars, there is a free weekly lecture series that discusses various topics related to our solar system.
Let Love Grow
Each year, it’s almost expected to give or receive roses on Feb. 14. Do something different this year by planting a tree in the back yard. Trees last much longer than any bouquet of roses. For those who can’t plant a tree in the yard, plant a tree or shrub at the Botanic Garden at Independence Park. Volunteers are needed for planting and maintaining the gardens. BREC’s Cohn Arboretum is another great place to visit. This 15-acre preserve has over 300 species of trees and shrubs, a butterfly garden, a fruit orchard and a collection of bamboo.
Share the Love
Anti-Valentine’s Day parties are becoming just as cliché as dinner and chocolates. Instead of celebrating singlehood, throw a dinner party for family and friends. Celebrate and share with those closest to you. Share stories of love and laughter with each other.
These are just some of the alternatives to a traditional way of celebrating Valentine’s Day, but the options are endless. Think outside the box. Start a new tradition, celebrate on a different day or even skip the day altogether. Put the money usually spent on gifts and dinner towards a future adventure. Remember the meaning of Valentine’s Day and sustain it throughout the month of February and not just on the 14th.