From festive dinner to fancy dog treats, Philly shows it cares on Valentine’s Day

(<a href=''>luckybusiness</a>/Big Stock Photo)

(luckybusiness/Big Stock Photo)

Pennsylvania isn’t one of the most romantic places in the country to celebrate Valentine’s Day (find out where is here), but Philadelphians made more than 6,000 dinner reservations for today through online restaurant reservations site OpenTable.

This need to go out for an expensive meal, buy a heart-pendant necklace, or even follow the unspoken (and daunting) rules of how much we should spend on a significant other isn’t rooted in the holiday’s history. In fact, there’s confusion on how the holiday even came to be so popular. It’s hard to say why spending money on dinners, gifts, chocolates, and flowers is a trend that resurfaces every year.

And it’s set to do so again this year. More than half of the U.S. population is planning to celebrate.

Couple and family therapist Dr. Jacqueline Hudak from the University of Pennsylvania said spending money for the holiday isn’t necessarily the fault of Valentine’s Day: It’s just a basic way to care for someone.

“It’s a lovely way to step out of the ordinary and give somebody a message about how valued they are,” she said. “It’s kind of a step out of the norm.”

Hudak said a couple can achieve emotional attunement in many ways, including giving and receiving gifts. But she also said, even though there’s a market for consumerism, more and more people are celebrating with handmade cards or just expressing a particular sentiment to their partner for the holiday.

The National Retail Federation reports that people are shying away from romantic candlelit dinners outside the home. This year, meal delivery companies like Blue Apron (which has been promoting a new Valentine’s Day deal) may take away some of those restaurant sales. That said, OpenTable’s Tiffany Fox said Valentine’s Day is still their busiest day of the year.

The NRF predicts U.S. consumers will spend $18.2 billion — down from last year’s record high of $19.7 billion. That’s an average of $136.57 per person, with men spending almost double than women.

At jewelry boutique Dandelion, in Suburban Square of Ardmore for more than 35 years, manager Lynn Spiller, 56, said she has seen mostly shoppers in the store this week, predominantly men looking for gifts.

But the holiday isn’t just for romantic couples — $703 million was spent last year on Valentine’s Day gifts for our pets, according to the NRF.

Creator of Duross & Langel soap makers in Center City, Steve Duross, said he also sees a spike in sales during this time of the year. Duross & Langel regulars are willing to buy something extra for a friend, family member, or co-worker, he said. Their merchandise allows for some inclusivity during the holiday.

“It’s not like chocolate and flowers,” he said. “Our motto is ‘good, clean fun,’ and I think it plays very well to gift-giving. It’s not too personal, but at the same time, it’s usually something that’s fun to give and something to receive.”

Robert Schwartz, 50, has been working at family jeweler Harry Merrill & Son for 30 years as a third-generation shop on Jewelers Row.

Schwartz said although he sees an increase in sales in engagement rings and pendants, there he doesn’t just sell big-ticket items — sometimes people pay for more custom work to revive an older piece, or they make a smaller, sentimental purchase.

“It’s not always the amount of money,” he said. “It’s nice when somebody who is barely scraping it together comes in and they’re passionate about it. It’s nice to sell a big thing, but it’s cooler when a guy comes in with $100 looking for something.”

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