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VALENTINE’S: Red Letter Day for Roses and Chocolate

February 13, 1990

Undated (AP) _ Oh, St. Valentine 3/8 How to capture the rapture? Does confection affirm affection? Do flowers floor? Or will it take a gold mine to get you to be mine?

Valentine’s Day - colored rose red, punctuated with arrows from Cupid’s bow, sweet as a bon bon and pretty as a bouquet - actually has its roots in blood, gore, guts and gluttony.

Historians say Valentine’s Day began in the third century, when two Christian saints, both named Valentine, were executed. Because the martyrs’ feast day, Feb. 14, was around the time of a pagan Roman festival called the Lupercalia, which celebrated fertility, St. Valentine was popularly designated the patron saint of lovers.

It’s been 1,720 years since the heathens had their way - today, we shower oursweeties with perfume, jewelry, lingerie, candy and flowers.

We’ll also buy them pajamas, stuffed animals in all shapes, acrylic legs filled with German chocolate - at $98 a limb at Macy’s - and Vietnamese potbellied pigs.

Americans will give their Valentines $611 million worth of candy this year, about $2.50 in sweets for every man, woman and child, says Richard O’Connell, president of the National Confectioners Association.

If that $611 million were translated into chocolate kisses at the New York City price of $5 a pound, about 93 kisses, it would buy 122.2 million pounds. If all those kisses were laid end to end, the chain of chocolate would circle the globe 6.4 times.

If you don’t want to make your baby a blimp, merchants have a few suggestions.

Bloomingdale’s has some ″really fun boxer shorts with hearts on them,″ said spokeswoman Jennifer Conner. They also have T-shirts with ″big red lips″ on them. The apparel will set you back about $20.

Victoria’s Secret, the mildly racy lingerie chain, offers toiletries for those who don’t feel their relationships are up to intimate underthings.

But business is still brisk in undies, said spokeswoman Laura Holbrook. ″Oversized satin T-shirts, silk camisoles and pants in rich gem colors like emerald, ruby, sapphire will be big,″ she said.

A little more upscale, Bergdorf Goodman has red silk pajamas for $375, a matching robe for $375 and bath oil for $63 - a mere $813 to get your sweetheart clean and ready for bed.

Macy’s Estate Jewelry department offers atomizers with cranberry-colored glass and sterling silver trim for $950.

Always popular is the romantic staple - a simple red rose. Seventy million roses will be sold for Valentine’s Day, the biggest day of the year for rose sales, the Society of American Florists predicts. Eighty percent will be red, the rest mostly pink and yellow.

The other Valentine tradition - exchanging cards - is booming, said Leslee Parsons, a spokeswoman for the American Greeting Corp. They expect more than 1 billion valentines to be given this year. School children give the most cards, she said.

But back to the chocolate. The National Confectioner’s Association says Americans’ increasing health consciousness is actually boosting the industry.

″Americans are treating themselves to confections and sweets, but because they are more health conscious and working out, they don’t feel as guilty,″ said spokesman Brian Muloney. ″In fact, there’s more working out and pigging out.″

And there are some who will literally pig out.

Paradise Pigs, which sells the latest trendy pet, Vietnamese potbellied pigs, says it has received orders for Valentine’s Day pigs, which cost from $1,500 to $2,500 for males and about $5,000 for females.

The pigs are prized because they stay small, ranging from 25 pounds to 150 pounds, and have sunny dispositions.

″For a lot of our customers, it’s like having a kid,″ said Paradise Pig’s owner, Kris Bryant. ″Husbands are buying them for their wives, men are buying them for their girlfriends.″

Bryant said her pigs try to knock the phone from her hand when they think she’s been talking long enough; that might make them a good buy for parents of teen-agers.

Be it a dozen roses or a porcine bundle of joy, most people will wonder about their Valentine’s Day gift: Was it given sincerely or was it just an obligatory gesture?

″People spend a good deal of time wondering if a gift is sincere,″ said sociologist Hy Mariampolski. And givers also worry whether their presents will be enjoyed, he said.

″People are very insecure about gifts being appreciated so they fall into patterns of safe gift giving,″ said Mariampolski, who studies gift-giving habits for QualiData Research Inc. in New York. One way to make sure your gift is well-regarded is to personalize it, he said.

″It may be a bouquet of flowers,″ he said, ″but if a guy has it delivered to his girlfriend’s doorstep by a strolling musician, it’s going to be very special.″


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