As Halloween breaks merchandise sales records year after year with mountains of zombie, ghoul and politician-of-the-year masks, we're craving a greater emphasis on winter's other, more affectionate bookend: Valentine's Day. February 14th surfaces like a moist, balmy breeze, granting us a reprieve from the doldrums that commence after New Year's and can last until April.

With Christian/Roman roots that are vague and difficult to pin down, the modern tradition of acknowledging those you love has sustained a steady greeting card, boxed chocolate, flower, and tacky red lingerie business. But this year you can do more --exult in the healing power of love, shout from the hilltops, and give presents that are unusual, open-hearted, and spiritually sumptuous!

Sounds ambitious, but here are some ideas to help you along.

Romantic Fine Art Prints
Mandala.org has issued a large collection of affordable posters, calendars and notecards depicting scenes from Hindu stories and scripture so beautiful they should please lovers of any faith. This poster of Radna and Krishna, the divine couple of Hinduism, is 19 by 27 inches. $12.00.

Two boxed sets of blank romantic art cards, "Love Divine Art Cards," and "Yoga of Love Art Cards," cost $12.95 each.

Red "Personal Power" Scarf
The horses are running wild on this large and fabulous red chiffon scarf available through AlterYourLife.com's website. A great gift to affirm the power and possibility of Mom or any other exciting woman in your life, it's available in silk chiffon for $68.00. The price goes up to $105.00 if you opt for the black satin silk trim.

First Corinthians Coffee Mug
A loving message adapted from 1 Corinthians decorates this ceramic coffee mug. $5.99

Protective Miz Pah Pendant
This two-part lover's necklace of Jewish origin is a wonderfully sentimental gift. You keep half, and give the other: The quote engraved into it is from Genesis and it reads "The Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent from one another." Available in several finishes, sizes and price levels from $92 for sterling to $265 for a large medal in 14-karat gold.

Girl's Seed of Faith Pin
Just as a tiny mustard seed grows into a strong plant, a little faith can give you strength. This delicate heart-shaped pin provides a wonderful way to reinforce the famous Bible lesson and seal it forever in the mind of a young -- or older girl. This could be the best nine dollars you ever spend on her, and it's wonderfully appropriate for Valentine's Day.

Sensual Oils and Essences
Mary Muryn worked with essential oils for years as a healer, mind-body therapist and student of the world's finest spa treatments. In time, she discovered her own entrepreneurial streak and developed a line of aromatic bath and body products. For Valentine's Day, we recommend the "Rose Open Your Heart Oil" for $34.00, which contains the essence of Rose Absolute and Tea Rose Fragrance, both apparently good scents for opening the heart to love and well-being. A little "Mystical Sex Oil" or "Sexual Rejuvenation Oil" also couldn't hurt, and they are available at the same price.

Open Your Heart Chakra
Tibetan Black Hat Feng Shui expert and Chakra/Color therapist Nancy SantoPietro published a four-CD set of chakra cleansing meditations that will open your heart to love and blow your hat and socks off. Of particular interest at this season are the heart chakra exercises to help you love yourself and others with a fullness you may never have experienced. $39.99 plus shipping.

Sweets for the Sweet
For the chocolate lover near to your heart, consider these large Chocolove bars -- nine of them in all their glory -- in a fancy boxed set, each accompanied in the wrapper by its own famous love poem from Lord Byron, Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the like. We wanted to please you with an all-vegan, earth-friendly chocolate, but sadly, at this moment, Chocolove's best dark bar that is all organic and non-dairy, is temporarily out of stock. The box of nine different varieties is $18.00 plus shipping and a great way to get to know the product.

Time to Try Tantra
What are you waiting for? Tantric sex is so high-minded, there's no need for embarrassment. Charles and Caroline Muir are among an elite group of American tantra pioneers, giving seminars that apparently shake the sexual foundations of most romances and marriages. Their text "The Art of Conscious Loving Book" ($18.95) is a bible for some. And their video ($29.95), filmed in the wilds of Hawaii, apparently provides considerable warmth, as well as a full education, for a cold February night. Both available at sourcetantra.com or Amazon.com.

A Heart of Flowers
Who would we be to ignore flowers at Valentine's Day? This lacquered heart-shaped box contains crocus bulbs that will grow, bloom, and last awhile. You've got to plant them yourself though. $38.00 plus shipping.

Celtic Knot Heart Pendant
A novel pendant to give to the woman who's on a spiritual path. Handmade by Helen Chantler, a Celt from a small village in England, this piece is rich in "universal meaning," a symbol of the beating heart braided up in external and internal experiences. In 18-karat gold and sterling silver: $125.

Let Your Love Shine
We found two candles to warm the heart. The makers of this red Zen heart sutra candle promise that it sends prayers for the thirty hours it burns. $6.00 plus shipping.

Blue Love Stone Pair
When you can't be there to hold your loved one's hand, give them something that reminds them you care. This pair of lovely, soothing blue stones can be held in the hand during trying times, kept in a warm pants pocket, or displayed on a desk or dresser. You can keep one and give the other. $12.95 for two.

Sailor's Valentine Kit
For the lover with time -- and disposable income to spare: an idea just too darned cute not to include. It's a kit with which you make a valentine of shells, like sailors used to do in earlier, simpler times. For them the shells were free; for today's romantic, the price is: $124.95.

Love Letter Necktie
Yes, it's still a necktie, but we found the old-fashioned love letter pattern covertly spiritual, and even the stodgiest man could wear this. You love him, right? So why freak him out with something he's not ready for, like his-and-her yoga mats? $32.99 plus shipping.

And speaking of love letters, we found a great website (everything's free, there's only T-shirts to buy) called LoveLetters.com that provides the text to fabulous love letters, famous and non. Learn, for instance, that in 1912, Franz Kafka wrote to Felice Bauer:

"I don't want to know that you are fond of me. If I did, how could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping on a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you?"

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