Alternative Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

We all know that Valentine’s Day is a holiday about love. The conventional way to think about this holiday is to think about a pair of lovers. That convention is a delightful one; a pair of lovers is a wonderful thing. It’s the traditional Cupid arrangement. But not everyone has a lover to celebrate with. It’s not the only way to think about celebrating love.

Love requires someone to give love and someone to be the recipient. But why limit ourselves to thinking that a lover has to be the one who receives that love? There are so many ways to give love and so many potential recipients.

Do you have an elderly neighbor who doesn’t get out much or get out easily? Why not express loving kindness by giving some time – share a cup of tea, take a field trip to a park or the grocery store, watch a movie together. Perhaps you can give a caregiver a much needed respite by spending an hour or two.

There are volunteer opportunities in your community – go to your local assisted living facility and read to or play chess with one of the residents; give time and canned goods to your local pantry. Or you could go to your local school and volunteer time to help out a teacher – make photocopies, read to a student, put up a bulletin board.

If you want to stay closer to home, think about some different ways to express love to and with the people closest to you. Valentines aren’t the only way to express love. Clean out your partner’s car and vacuum the carpets. Clean (and deodorize) your teenager’s sneakers. Sit and color Valentines with your grade schooler to give to everyone at ballet class. Make paper doily Valentines with your pre-schooler to give to all your neighbors. Do a building or craft project with one or more of your kids. Invite other kids to join you in any of these activities.

Contact a relative you haven’t seen or spoken to in a long time. Wish him or her a Happy Valentine’s Day and spend some time by phone or in person or even in a nice long note.

The objective is to commit thought, energy, and generosity to express loving kindness. That loving kindness can be given to someone you love, someone you know well, someone you know only a little, or someone you don’t know at all. It can be an intimate sharing with someone with whom you are in love. But it can be an anonymous gift to someone you’ve never met.

The gift goes both ways. The giver gets the benefit of being able to give to and do for another. Research shows that giving to another is a surefire way to elevate your mood. The recipient is warmed and elevated by the loving kindness from another. Both parties get to celebrate love on Valentine’s Day.

As a final thought, a wonderful way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and express loving kindness is to adopt a pet from a shelter. If there’s room in your home and in your heart, consider adopting someone who’ll repay your loving kindness for a lifetime. And please, spay and neuter.

Dr. Benna Sherman has been a Licensed Psychologist in private practice in Severna Park, Maryland, for over 20 years. She has a specialty in Marriage/Relationship Counseling and writes a biweekly newspaper column on relationships. Her book, “How to Get and Give Love – Relationship Maps”, is now available on in both paperback and Kindle.

Learn more about Dr. Sherman, subscribe to her free newsletter, and read more of her articles at

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