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Dear Abby | by Jeanne Phillips

Q&A: All about Valentine's Day

All about Valentine's Day

When did Valentine's Day start? How big a business is it?

The origin of Valentine's Day is not entirely certain, according to information at

One story that has persisted is that of Saint Valentine, a priest in third century Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers and outlawed marriage, legend has it that Valentine defied the order and continued to perform marriages. When he was caught, he was thrown in prison and beheaded.

But before his execution, according to the story, Valentine fell in love with a guard's daughter and supposedly wrote her a letter and signed it, "From your Valentine," a phrase still used today.

Two hundred years later, in 498 A.D., Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 St. Valentine's Day.

The oldest known Valentine is a poem written by Charles, duke of Orleans, from prison after being captured in battle in 1415.

The holiday became more widely celebrated in the 1600s, and in the 1700s it became common for friends and lovers to exchange gifts or handwritten notes. The customs migrated to the New World, and the first mass-produced Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the United States were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland.

Valentine's Day is celebrated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia.

According to the Greeting Card Association, about 1 billion cards are exchanged on the day, putting it second to Christmas (2.6 billion) in the ranks of card-sending holidays. About 85 percent are purchased by women. A survey by BIGresearch found that couples will spend about $63 on gifts for their significant other. Total holiday spending is forecast to hit $14 billion.

Snow, rain measure differently

Is 1 inch of snow the same as 1 inch of rain? If not, what would the equivalent be?

No, the two are not equal. As a general rule, 10 inches of snow equals 1 inch of rain. However, the formula can vary greatly depending upon the type of snow — heavy and wet, or powdery and dry. Heavy, wet snow has a high water content; 4 or 5 inches of this kind of snow contains about 1 inch of water.

The voice of Dodge Ram

Who is the voice behind the Dodge Ram truck commercial? It sounds so familiar it is driving me crazy, but I can't come up with the answer.

Some listening to the "My name is Ram and my tank is full" commercial are pretty convinced the compelling voice belongs to actor Will Patton (Remember the Titans, The Agency). But a Dodge representative said it is Stan Richards, an ad agency executive who founded the company, voicing the ads.

Q&A: All about Valentine's Day 02/11/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 6:08pm]
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