Cover: Common Starling flock, Dumfries, Scotland. Photograph: Paul Hobson/FLPA
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Reclaim Love St Valentines Day party at Picadilly Circus, 2009. Photograph: Courtesy Peter Marshall mylondondiary.co.uk
Disconnecting beloved traditions from the grip of consumer culture.
If the advertising industry is to be believed, it is now a prerequisite at Easter to give our families presents – much like at Christmas. Our fathers must be shown affection on a certain day of the year, yet a card is no longer enough: as with Mothers’ Day, we are now expected to shower our loved ones with expensive gifts in order to affirm our filial bonds.
Valentine’s Day, which has its origins as far back as the Middle Ages, is traditionally a day where people show their affection by sending each other handwritten ‘love notes’. But again, this simple affirmation has been hijacked by corporations to the point where cards, chocolates, jewellery – even weekend breaks – are now expected.
But not everybody wants to participate in this orgy of consumerism. Now in its seventh year, Reclaim Love is a global movement away from celebrating Valentine’s Day with flowers and chocolates towards a day of celebrating Love itself. All around the world people are taking to the streets, parks or organised venues to link hearts and minds to send a warm message of love, unity and joy out into the world
Last year fourteen countries participated at 3pm GMT on 14th February to make a circle and repeat in their own language the words of an ancient Sanskrit prayer, which when translated into English reads, ‘May all the beings in all the world be happy and at peace’.
The co-ordinator of Reclaim Love, Irish poet Venus CuMara, began the event to “create a balance for all those like me who are disenchanted by the idea that chocolate and flowers could be a greater gift than the gift of love itself. I’m delighted that thousands of people across the world choose to celebrate love in this simple way. To hold hands in the middle of a city with thousands of people you have never met, from all ages, nationalities, creeds, and social backgrounds, sending out the same prayer is a very beautiful experience.”
It has been proven that mass prayer and intention can actually change the world. Experiments have shown that a group of people praying for fewer road traffic accidents has a measurable effect on reducing the number of casualties. With that in mind, CuMara hopes that as the event multiplies across the globe, a critical mass of people saying this prayer for peace and love will have the desired effect.
This year circles will be taking place at 3.30pm on Saturday 13th of February. Why not discard the shackles of consumerism and declare your love for people and planet in a different way?