Valentine Cake, baked yesterday afternoon and served fresh for tea.

Commercialisation! Excess consumerism! We do not engage with common celebration because we do not wish to join in with the commercial jamboree which is sapping the goodness from our Earth and poisoning our planet – as well as tempting many to spend more than they have got. This is what I hear from many sensible, sensitive and responsible members of society.

But why should we metaphorically throw the baby out with the bath water? Why deny ourselves and others around us the pleasure of celebrating a lovely occasion, just because we don’t want to buy what is on offer in the shops? Surely this demonstrates that we have all become truly brainwashed by the commercial world into thinking that we can only celebrate something if we buy the requisite formula from commercial outlets?

Primarily, celebration is a state of mind and a general outlook. A public holiday or event or personal occasion approaches and we feel that we would like to take part in it. This then gives rise to ideas of how we might do this, which frequently involve the participation of others. We are contemplating a special time when we are able to tune out from the ‘ordinary’ day and spend a bit of quality time with loved ones, (or are blessed with the peace and space of our own company), enjoying an activity or activities which are just a little different or special.

Speaking as the mother of a family, our celebrations first and foremost involve bringing family and often dear friends together. Before any event, we discuss and agree on what form we wish our celebration to take, and also who would like to volunteer to do what towards it, or what they might provide or donate towards it. We meet and greet each other with the common aim of spending valuable quality time together and enjoying ourselves.

What we do once we are together follows a very simple and often similar formula. We spend quality time together. We talk and share. In the darker months we switch off all the electricity and light candles and/or encircle the hearth and sit in firelight – or outside around the flames of a bonfire. We bake or cook a special cake, dish or meal. We brew a pot of tea or coffee or set out (home made) wine and a cheese board. We play games, spend time in the garden or out in the woods… we watch a performance of ballet of opera on T.V. We exchange gifts – most usually individually home produced with much love and care. Activities and refreshments of food and drink often reflect the changing seasons.

It might not be to everyone’s taste, but it is authentic to us and largely free, for it is what we bring to the gathering within ourselves which makes each occasion so valued and special. It is not just the jokes, the communal song, the music, the conversation we share which warms us, nourishes and supports us and makes our hearts sing. It is the fact that we are happy to co-operate and create these occasions, together, and the love for one another which this demonstrates.

Where in any of this have I mentioned buying anything, or even leaving the home environment, unless it is to go out into the garden or natural world?

I am sure that you all have your personal favourite ways of enjoying yourself and celebrating. But it does not have to involve running with the herd and doing what everyone else does. It does not have to involve great expenditure. Customers tend to buy items to make a celebration. They go through the motions of setting the scene by simply flashing their bank cards. But the amount of real involvement and input, effort and care is negligible – and so celebrations are frequently found to be devoid of any true meaning and so hollow and disappointing.  Then people feel disappointed and let down. Rows often ensue. We need to be reminded that we only get out what we put in.

So, what might you decide to next celebrate? What ‘ordinary day’ might you choose to use to alleviate the grey drabness of this end of winter? There are always personal highs to focus on… even just the fact that it is a stormy day and you want to be cosy indoors – enter candles, cakes and hot buttered crumpets… perhaps reading aloud, singing or listening to lovely music… or getting up on your feet and dancing around your living room?

Looking in the calendar of springtime events in the back of my book, ‘Spring In Your Step’, I see that on the 21st February it is International Mother Language Day.  That could be celebrated in all sorts of ways by reading poetry or prose aloud, writing something, singing, signing up to learn to speak your original ‘mother tongue’ or getting in touch with others who speak the same language. Spend a few minutes thinking about how lucky we all are to be able to communicate, how lucky we are that most of us can speak, articulate, and hear similar responses.

Or simply take a little time to celebrate your good health… peace… the fact that you are alive and have this day. But it doesn’t have to cost you a thing – except thought and effort, perhaps.

Go on, be daring! Celebrate just being alive!