Ah, Valentine's Day . . .

It is one of our oldest holidays, actually, having been designated as Feb. 14 in 496 by Pope Gelasius.Some believe that its roots go back even farther: to the ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia. Others link it with an old English belief that birds choose their mates on Feb. 14.

The early Christian church had at least two saints named Valentine. One secretly married young couples. The other was unjustly imprisoned and received loving notes through his jail cell window. So either could have been responsible for the connections with sweethearts and love letters.

Valentine's Day is also one of our more popular holidays. In a survey for Scripps Howard News Service, asking whether we should continue to celebrate this day or whether it just made single people feel more lonely, 89 percent of the respondents (86 percent of the males and 91 percent of the females) voted in favor of observing the holiday. And 81 percent of both males and females said they normally celebrate the day by sending somebody a Valentine's card, flowers, candy or by taking somebody to dinner.

And although 49 percent of the respondents said they felt romance was on the decline in this country, there is still plenty of proof that we still like that old lovin' feeling.

According to a Maritz Ameri-Poll, some 72 percent of the women and 58 percent of the men consider themselves to be romantics.

And a majority are happy with their love life: 47 percent said "it's a winner"; 26 percent rated it as OK; only 2 percent said "it stinks." However, 11 percent of Americans said "I don't have one," and 5 percent said "I don't want one."

Despite the time constraints of the busy '90s, a survey for the 1998 Harlequin Romance Report shows that a majority of women worldwide are satisfied with the time they spend in personal relationships.

Fifty-seven percent of women around the world say they have enough time with their partners. The highest satisfaction level comes in Turkey (73 percent) and Canada and Japan (69 percent), while the lowest numbers come from Argentina and Hungary. And 61 percent say they have enough time with family and friends. These numbers are especially high in Japan (80 percent), the United Kingdom (77 percent) and France (75 percent) and lowest in Hungary, Spain and Greece.

In the United States just over six in 10 women say they have enough time with their partners, and 69 percent say they have enough time to spend with family and friends.

However, some 47 percent of the women around the globe say they wish they had more time for special pampering for themselves. Many would like more time for reading and travel. Still, the number of women worldwide who say they never let a day go by without: making themselves look attractive - 58 percent; telling their partners "I love you" - 55 percent; doing something romantic for my partner - 41 percent; making love - 34 percent; and exercising to keep in shape - 33 percent.

And, according to the Harlequin Report, there's nothing like a romantic movie ("Sleepless in Seattle" and "The English Patient" top the list) or a love song ("Time In A Bottle" and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" rate highest) to make us feel the mood.

Too, we like real-life stories of love and devotion. Did you know, for example, that the highest recorded number of love letters exchanged between two people are the 6,000 sent between the Rev. Canon Bill Cook and his fiancee, Helen, of Diss, England, during a four-year separation in the early 1940s? That averages about four a day (talk about taking time for relationships!).