Saint Valentine’s Day may not be observed as a Holy Day in the Anglican church, but many Anglicans across the country will still be engaging in the secular practice of exchanging gifts and cards on February 14. For those looking to express their gratitude and love through material gifts with a little more ethical and spiritual meaning, here are some twists on traditional tokens that help support causes around the world.
Chocolates are extra sweet when they’re made with fair trade cocoa procured from farmers with a share in the company. Divine Chocolate sources from Kuapa Kokoo, a co-operative in Ghana—its 85,000 members co-own the company. Chocolate bars range from milk to dark and unexpected flavours like dark chocolate with pink Himalayan sea salt, milk chocolate with hazelnuts and white chocolate with strawberries.
www.divinechocolateusa.com, Ten Thousand Villages stores
Meal deal: Food and independence
For those tired of braving the reservations rush on Valentine’s Day, try spreading the gift of a meal to families in need. Pick an item to give from the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) World of Gifts guide, like a 20-kg bag of seeds ($30) for farmers to produce diverse crops, a goat ($30) or 40 chickens ($40), which provide a family with a source of income and protein from eggs. Make the donation in your loved one’s name and surprise them over a candlelit homecooked meal—maybe using one of the same ingredients you bought for a family across the world.
(Green) diamonds are forever
Diamonds can have a dark side, as they are often mined in conflict zones, in an industry rife with harsh labour practices and negative environmental impact. But if sparkly jewellery is on your gift list, try a brand that sells eco-friendly, lab-grown diamonds. Portland, Ore.-based MiaDonna uses a portion of proceeds from each sale to fund The Greener Diamond Foundation, which supports development programs in sub-Saharan Africa.
Instead of a stuffed bear carrying drugstore chocolates, give a symbol of hope. Hope Bear is the mascot of the Anglican Foundation of Canada, and proceeds from these cuddly teddies support ministry within the Canadian Anglican church. Bears sporting a cute seasonal sweater come with a gift bag and favourite Bible verse: “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace” (Romans 15:13).
A bouquet of blooms is even better when it beautifies the world and helps the environment. Give a card and flowers with a Valentine made of plantable seed paper that sprouts into flowers when buried in the garden. Buy online or make your own with shredded recycled paper and wildflower seeds. You can even tuck an extra gift inside—help Canada’s reforestation by planting a tree ($4 each) for a loved one.
Make a difference
Through Giving with Grace, the Anglican Church of Canada funds and supports ministries across the country. Consider giving a gift with the hope to help eradicate human trafficking, address the suicide crisis in Indigenous communities or support the chaplains to Canada’s Armed Forces.
Donate your day
Some happy couples have even decided to make their wedding into an opportunity to give.
The Rev. Michelle Boomgaard, rector of St. Christopher’s Anglican Church in Burlington, Ont., diocese of Niagara, requested that guests give to charitable organizations in lieu of wedding gifts when she and her husband, the Rev. Lou Hays, got married last spring.
The two Episcopal priests had just moved to Canada. “My husband and I aren’t in our twenties anymore (and haven’t been for a while!),” Boomgaard wrote in an email interview. “We…were overwhelmed with stuff as we consolidated households. We knew that we didn’t want to get any more stuff—we wouldn’t have anywhere to put it!”
The couple still wanted to give friends and family the opportunity to celebrate with them, while supporting worthy causes. “I really liked the idea that the money people contributed in honour of the new life Lou and I were starting together would possibly help some other family elsewhere in the world start a new life, too.”
The financial gifts went towards several organizations, including Boomgaard’s parish and PWRDF. “As I was writing thank-you notes to the various people who had contributed to PWRDF, I said that it made me smile to think of some other family in Canada or around the world somehow sharing in the joy of my wedding,” said Boomgaard. “And, I got a note that one person had donated a goat in honour of our marriage—that just makes me laugh.
“When you think about it, it’s so much more practical than another set of towels. (We have a LOT of towels.)”
Editor’s note: The first paragraph of this story has been updated to correct a statement that Saint Valentine does not appear in the Calendar of Saints; in fact the saint appears in the Book of Common Prayer calendar, but not the Book of Alternative Services.