Every year, my dad sends my sister and I Valentine cards. Inside is a message about how Valentine’s Day is a manufactured holiday created by card companies and we shouldn’t place any importance on how we actually feel on that day because it’s a capitalist trick, not an authentic holiday. But he still sends the card, and he still reminds us that he loves us. Thoughtfulness is always meaningful, even if our trigger for communicating it is a little cheesy.
I personally love Valentine’s Day, partly because of its silliness. I’ve been single for most of my Valentine’s Days, and I used those days as an excuse to either eat a bunch of chocolate and watch sappy romantic comedies or eat a bunch of pizza and watch action movies, depending on whether my mood was more sentimental or cynical. I like giving my friends and my family little Valentine gifts. I think it’s a fun day to recognize people in your life who are meaningful to you.
What should you give a friend on Valentine’s Day? Just something small and sweet. You can do a spin on the classics, like a single flower or a few pieces of candy, or you could just grab a box of elementary school valentines from the dollar store, sign your name inside, and leave them at coworkers’ desks. Even something as simple as a text with an emoji heart can be enough to let someone know you’re thinking about them.
Here are a few gifts I’ve gotten recently that I think would be perfect for Valentine’s Day — and they work for either friends or significant others:
French Hair Pin from Mae Salon
Is it really French? I don’t know. But I feel French when I’m wearing it, and that’s enough for me. Also, this hair pin makes it super easy to make your hair look like you actually spent time on it when you didn’t. I got mine from Mae Salon in Avondale.
Wooden Spoon Herbs Hot Chocolate from Dreamers Supply Company
Dreamers Supply Company has a bunch of dreamy stuff … hence the name. They have sweet cards and stationary, and they have a bunch of gifts you won’t find other places — like Wooden Spoon Herbs Hot Chocolate, which is so delicious (my jar is almost out!). I think hot chocolate is a fun twist on the traditional Valentine gift of chocolates (although those would work, too).
Mae Salon and Dreamer Supply have a Galentine’s event tonight; check out either shop’s Instagram stories for more information, or go by Mae Salon in Avondale to check it out.
Journal from Square One
This Christmas, I got a planner from Square One Goods in downtown Birmingham, and I really love it. This shop is full of gifts that are quirky and practical, which is actually a really tough balance to pull off. They have gifts for basically everyone, but especially check it out if your Valentine likes stationary or cooking. They also have almost an entire wall of Birmingham-made gifts.
I did a whole roundup of new Birmingham shops right here, and every single one of them would be a great place to pick up Valentine’s Day gifts. It also includes two our our newest chocolate shops!
Can Valentine’s Day be romantic? Sure. But it can also be used to celebrate friendship, to recognize someone who feels forgotten, to reach out and remind yourself of the supportive community surrounding you. It might be a corporate holiday, but I don’t think it has to be soulless.
Obviously, you can reach out to your friends and loved ones any day of the year, but Valentine’s Day is kind of a natural time to think about it. I’ve been reminded several times lately that the little things we do — the small Instagram comments, the quick phone calls, the random little gifts and coffee dates — can do a lot of harm or a lot of good. We make footprints in this world, and they are rarely neutral. We can tear someone down in a second, and we all do it, whether it’s trashing someone’s ethics or beliefs online or betraying a friend or coworker by talking behind their back. But we also have the chance to take the same amount of effort and to make someone feel special, to recognize their importance, and yeah, to let them know that they are loved.
Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist, a book about buying from locally owned stores and cofounder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Currently, she works as Communications Director at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find her as @crollwagen onFacebook,Instagram, Twitter and most other social media platforms.