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The custom of giving gifts on Valentine's Day actually started with European preschool children around the turn of the century. They sent love notes on colored paper to their playmates and teachers on St. Valentine's Day Eve. Parents caught onto the celebration and attached heart-shaped cards to small trinkets as gifts for their children.

The idea eventually spread to include special sweethearts as well as friends and family. And today, many valentines are of the floral or edible variety.Red roses have symbolized love since the days of the Roman Empire. But they have never been more popular. If set end to end, roses purchased this February would stretch from coast to coast more than six times, says Roses Inc., a trade association.

If you are one of the lucky ones receiving roses, here are tips on making them last:

- Remove any leaves that may decay under water. When removing leaves or thorns, do not cut through the green bark.

- While holding stems under water in a sink or under running water, cut about one inch off each stem with a sharp knife. Don't let the newly cut end dry off before transferring it to your arrangement.

- Water to which a good floral preservative has been added is the best solution for the flowers. Do not use a solution that is stronger than the manufacturer's recommendation.

Candy is another popular Valentine's Day gift. Consider these tidbits from the National Confectioners Association:

- Valentine's Day is the third most popular day to give candy as a gift, behind Christmas and Easter.

- Valentine's Day confectionery sales will reach an estimated $642 million in 1992.

- More than 30 million heart-shaped boxes will be produced this year.

- More than 10 million pounds of conversation hearts, the heart-shaped mini-love letters that say "Be Mine" and "Kiss Me," will be produced. That's more than 3.2 billion individual hearts. Laid heart-to-heart, they would stretch 24.621 miles or fill the Empire State Building almost twice or border the Grand Canyon more than 50 times.

Pulling at the heart strings (romance in the ads)

Romance has long been a selling point.

When archivists at N.W. Ayer, one of the country's oldest advertising agencies, were searching through the company's work of the past 100 years, they found that of all the possible ways to see products, depictions of romance were one of the most popular methods of delivering the sales message.

Love and romance dominate ads for not only such "sexy" products as clothing, cosmetics, jewelry or travel, but even for such basic products as cough drops and window shades.

However, in the early 1900s, ads were aimed almost exclusively at men - who were assured that one box of Whitman's chocolates could please a woman, or a forgetful groom could use a Life Saver for a wedding ring.

By the 1930s, advertisements targeted women, and suggested their husbands would love them more if they improved not only their personal appearance but also that of their home.

"Advertising is a window into the mannerisms of a particular time," says psychologist Joyce Brothers. In today's ads, men are as likely to be romanced as to do the romancing.

Video Rentals for Lovers

For Valentine's Day, video rentals will be big business in romantic movies for couples who choose to cuddle in front of the tube.

Harlequin asked video stores in 10 major markets for their hottest titles. Here's the list of movies they believe will move fastest off the shelves:

1- Ghost, Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze

2- Pretty Woman, Richard Gere and Jilua Roberts

3- Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman

4- Gone with the Wind, Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable

5- From Here to Eternity, Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster

Source: Harlequin Books

Most requested romantic music for Valentine's Day

On February 14, radio request lines light up with calls asking for a special song to be 'dedicated to the one I love.' According to 104 disc jockeys, chances are the songs most often selected will be classic romantic renditions. Here's their Valentine's Day top ten:

1- Unchained Melody, Righteous Brothers

2- Everything I do, I do for you, Brian Adams

3- Wind Beneath My Wings, Bette Midler

4- Always and Forever, Heatwave

5- My Funny Valentine, Frank Sinatra or Linda Ronstadt

6- When a man loves a woman, Michael Bolton tied with Endless Love, Lionel Ritchie

8- Power of Love, Luther Vandross 9- Unforgettable, Nat King Cole with Natalie Cole

10- The Rose, Bette Midler

February Rose Sales

Stems in millions 1989: 39.5

1990: 41.7

1991: 60.8

1992: 80.0

Celebrating in style in Ten cities

More than any other night of the year, a February 14 rendezvous is a must for romantic couples.

This year, Harlequin, set out to see what the most elegant of dates will cost in ten major cities in North America.

Valentine card

New York: $1.00

San Francisco: $1.00

Los Angeles: $1.00

Denver: $1.00

Boston: $1.00

Chicago: $1.00

Miami: $1.00

Toronto*: $1.00

Atlanta: $1.00

Salt Lake: $1.00

One dozen roses, boxed & delivered

New York: $90

San Francisco: $78

Los Angeles: $84

Denver: $62

Boston: $66

Chicago: $63

Miami: $73.50

Toronto: $58

Atlanta: $77.50

Salt Lake: $62

Godiva chocolates, one pound

New York: $35

San Francisco: $35

Los Angeles: $44

Denver: $29

Boston: $29.50

Chicago: $27.50

Miami: $34

Toronto: $32.85

Atlanta: $23.50

Salt Lake: $34

Beluga Caviar, 3 ounces

New York: $167

San Francisco: $169

Los Angeles: $158.50

Denver: $180

Boston: $152.50

Chicago: $162

Miami: $165

Toronto: $94.50

Atlanta: $105

Salt Lake: $75

Tuxedo Rental

New York: $90

San Francisco: $68.50

Los Angeles: $68

Denver: $56

Boston: $70

Chicago: $65.50

Miami: $52

Toronto: $92.50

Atlanta: $61

Salt Lake: $26.65

Limousine rental 4 hours

New York: $187

San Francisco: $180

Los Angeles: $174

Denver: $180

Boston: $183

Chicago: $175

Miami: $167

Toronto: $211

Atlanta: $150

Salt Lake: $160

Dinner for two

New York: $220 (Rainbow Room)

San Francisco: $148 (Fleur de lys)

Los Angeles: $120 (The Four Oaks)

Denver: $123 (Cliff Young's)

Boston: $108 (Another Season)

Chicago: $110 (Spioggia)

Miami: $90 (Didier's)

Toronto: $81 (Centro Grill)

Atlanta: $145 (Nikolai's Roof)

Salt Lake City: $130 (La Caille at Quail Run)

Cost for most items were determined by averaging prices for the most popular size or a special holiday package from three different sources in each city.

*Converted to US from Cdn $

Denver: $120 (