Although it originated in Christendom as a day to commemorate the death of either of two Christian martyrs named Valentine, it wasn’t until the 14th century that Valentine’s Day began to assume its familiar romantic connection.
Although it originated in Christendom as a day to commemorate the death of either of two Christian martyrs named Valentine, it wasn’t until the 14th century that Valentine’s Day began to assume its familiar romantic connection. Surprisingly, it was “The Parliament of Fowls,” a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, that first suggested it was a day for lovers.
In that poem, a group of birds gathers early each “spring” on “Seynt Valentynes day” to choose their mates for life. Thankfully, for some, and sadly, for others, that tradition never caught on. But (primarily in the Western world) the custom of lovebirds regaling each other with flowers, jewelry, chocolates, and romantic nights out on the town persists to this day.
Still, as some traditions linger on, new ones spring up to provide both lovebirds—and other loved ones—fun things to do, to give and receive, on and around love’s big day. Here are some suggestions.
Your beloved might certainly enjoy a box of assorted chocolate truffles, chocolate-dipped strawberries, or raspberry Linzer heart cookies made fresh at the Night Kitchen Bakery and Café (7725 Germantown Ave., 215-248-9235). And that special someone might really be impressed by your good taste if you take them to the Chestnut Hill Brewing Company’s Valentine’s Day Chocolate and Beer Tasting at 6 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9. (Location: 8231 Germantown Ave., 215-247-0330.)
Cynthia Fillmore, owner of Windfall Gallery, tells me that her male customers prefer buying jewelry for their romantic partners, usually heart lockets, heart pendants, and the like. And to ease the discomfort of not finding the right piece of jewelry to make a girl’s heart sing, she’s devised a promotion called the Valentine Express.
Here's how it works. She invites the ladies to come in a week or so before Valentine’s to choose some favorite pieces for their wish list. Then, a few days later, their male partners arrive, tell Fillmore their lady’s name, and then tap that wish list for a select item or two that will be gift-wrapped and delivered to one happy lady. The gallery is at two locations: 7944 Germantown Ave., 215-247-6303, and 8419 Germantown Ave., 267-417-4666.)
Personally, Fillmore says that she and her best lady friends prefer to get together on Galentine’s Day, when women celebrate their friendship, love, and devotion to each other. Unofficially celebrated on Feb. 13, this fictional holiday originated on the popular TV show “Parks and Recreation” in 2010.
Since then, according to Fillmore, “it’s become a total thing, a twist on Valentine’s Day. Why does it only have to be about couples? In fact, for fun, we call it ‘Single Awareness Day,’ with the acronym ‘S.A.D.,’ because you’re so aware of being single on this day.”
Fillmore and about five of her closest female friends (most of them happily married) enjoy having brunch together at Cake (8501 Germantown Ave., 215-247-6887) or dinner at El Poquito (8201 Germantown Ave., 215-766-5372) or maybe at Panache (602 W. Skippack Pike, Blue Bell, 215-641-9000).
Closer to home, she and her husband Mike celebrate Valentine’s Day quietly with their children. But they also enjoy arranging relaxing massages for each other at either Cure de Repos (8439 Germantown Ave., 202-643-7377) or with an independent massage therapist.
Molly Ellis, owner of Threadwell, suggests a special custom-made Valentine’s Day gift, such as pillows for your sweetheart or a tote bag embroidered with a hand-drawn picture or an endearing note from someone special stitched on an apron or pillow. Order by Friday, Feb. 10, to give the design team enough time to create your special gift. (Location: 8432 Germantown Ave., 267-385-5206.)
For her designs, Ellis has been inspired by the love notes her mother still signs to her and by the “wacky art drawings” done by her sons. By the way, she says those sons love receiving sweet treats from Zipf’s Candies for Valentine’s (8433 Germantown Ave., 215-248-1877). That’s right: Let’s not forget the guys who comprise a big part of those lovebirds.
Voltaire Blaine, often dubbed “the best-dressed man in Chestnut Hill,” says that the ladies couldn’t do much better than giving their favorite gents a gift certificate for Style by Blaine, where they can choose “quality footwear not available elsewhere in this area” (8433 Germantown Ave., 215-753-2465).
At his stylish store, one of the premier shoe boutiques in the region, customers can also purchase men’s cologne, distinctive aromatic candles, and other gifts the men will surely appreciate. Blaine, who hails from Haiti, grew up in Brooklyn, and worked for years in Manhattan, where he gained his taste for quality clothing and open-minded conversation, says his dream has always been “to create a place where great minds can meet to speak freely about life and fashion.”
Personally, he gives his lovely lady flowers for Valentine’s. No problem in Chestnut Hill, where Robertson’s Flowers & Events, often named “Best of Philly,” offers a stunning collection of custom-created Valentine’s Day arrangements, as well as plants and related gifts, suitable for that special someone. Consider the headnote on its home page — “Romance Never Grows Out of Style”— and you’ll understand why Robertson’s is such a popular pre-Valentine’s and year-round destination. (Location: 8501 Germantown Ave., 215-242-6000.)
Finally, if you’re looking for something a little more offbeat than Chestnut Hill Brewery’s Chocolate & Beer Tasting, you might want to take your favorite date to Stagecrafters for an evening at the theater. Barbara Mills, the theater’s marketing director, recommends its current production, Rebecca Gilman’s “Boy Gets Girl,” running weekends at the playhouse until Feb. 26. She laughs “because the title might be a tad misleading. It’s really not a Valentine’s play. It’s not a rom-com, but it’s very edgy, very much out-of-the-ordinary, and should make for a rather exciting date.” (Location: 8130 Germantown Ave., 215-247-9913.)
Mills, who’s been married for 56 years to her husband, Dr. Moylan Mills, a mainstay at Penn State Abington for decades, says that they sometimes go out to dinner for Valentine’s but prefer these days to enjoy each other’s company quietly at home and wish for each other continued good health.
So there it is—your wish list, and some surprises, to help you celebrate love’s big day. Happy Valentine’s from the Local.