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February 14, 2012

Seeing red: Valentine’s Day 2012

People around the world once again expressed their affection for one another in many ways with balloons, cards, flowers, chocolates, gifts, and kisses to name just a few. The National Retail Federation said Americans alone will spend some $17.6 billion on the day that traces its origins to Roman rituals and the legend of Saint Valentine from the Catholic Church. -- Lloyd Young (34 photos total)

A man is silhouetted as he fills heart shaped balloons with helium while waiting for customers on Valentine's Day in Islamabad. (Faisal Mahmood/Reuters)

Red roses packed for despatch wait for transportation at the International Flower Auction Bangalore Limited on the eve of Valentine's Day in Bangalore. Roses are considered a symbol of romance, beauty, passion and love, with demand for the red variety peaking up during Valentine's Day. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images) #

A woman flashes the V-sign in the middle of men and women gathering during a 'singles fair' as they look for potential partners at Living Mall on Feb. 11 in Beijing, China. Preparations for Valentine's Day begin around China after the Spring Festival. (ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images) #

Bowling Green State University ROTC Air Force Cadet David Harless held hands with Hazel Ellis on Feb. 14 at Heritage Corner Health campus in Bowling Green, Oh. Harless and other cadets spent their lunch hour passing out roses and valentine cookies to residents. (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune/Associated Press) #

Birds are displayed outside a street shop displaying Valentine gadgets in Damascus, Syria on Feb. 14. (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images) #

Oliver, a miniature schnauzer, gets attention from all directions during a Valentine's Day themed photo shoot on Feb. 5 at the Fifth Street Public Market in Eugene, Ore. Curious K9 boutique offered $15 glamour shots taken by a professional photographer as a fundraiser to benefit Greenhill Humane Society. (Brian Davies/The Register-Guard/Associated Press) #

A worker displays a heart-shaped praline for Valentine's Day at a Wittamer chocolate boutique in Brussels. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters) #

A Chinese couple kiss for 60 seconds to receive a free food in a kissing competition at a cafe on Feb. 14 in Shanghai, China. (Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press) #

A young couple kisses in the Vltava River during a festival held in the center of Prague, Czech Republic, on Valentine's Day. (Michal Kamaryt/Associated Press #

A man holds Valentine's Day balloons for sale while waiting for customers along the roadside in Karachi on Feb. 14. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters) #

Monika Juarbe looks at her groom, Manuel Fuentes during a group Valentine's Day wedding ceremony at the National Croquet Center on Feb. 14 in West Palm Beach, Fl. The group wedding ceremony is put on by the Palm Beach Country Clerk and Comptroller's office and 30 couples tied the knot. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) #

A couple takes a photograph with a mobile phone in front of a red heart decoration on Valentine's Day in Wuhan, Hubei province China. (Darley Shen/Reuters) #

IvoNia Robinson and Mark Ellison II pose for photographs before they and several other couples take their marriage vows on Valentine's Day, at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/Associted Press) #

Eroll Escobar kisses his partner Princess Madrolejo as they pose for photographers while carrying a 16-foot 200 kg Albino Burmese Python during a Valentine's Day presentation inside the Malabon zoo, north of Manila. A survey conducted by Social Weather Stations from last year showed that only 3 out of 10 Filipinos would change their religion in the name of love. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters) #

An International Flower Auction Bangalore Limited employee sorts packed bunches of roses prior to delivery on the eve of Valentine's Day in Bangalore, India. Roses are considered a symbol of romance, beauty, passion and love, with demand for the red variety peaking during Valentine's Day. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images) #

A pedestrian walks past valentines posted on a storefront on Feb. 14 in Montpelier, Vt. The annual decorating with hearts of downtown Montpelier by an unknown party has happened again. Hundreds of paper hearts were posted across the city on Valentine's Day. (Toby Talbot/Associated Press) #

A man wearing a heart costume travels on Lima's electric train during Valentine's Day. Performers delivered hugs and kisses to people in different parts of the city on Tuesday as part of a promotional event. The writing on the costume reads "Love Madness". (Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters) #

A vendor rides his bicycle laden with heart-shaped balloons down a street in Beijing on Feb. 14. Beijing's Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau were anticipating over 4,000 couples would be showing up at registry offices around the city to tie the knot this Valentine's Day, which is being considered particularly auspicious as it falls in the Chinese lunar year of the dragon. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #

Parents look at red lanterns with personal information displayed during a Valentine's Day event at the People's Park in Shanghai on Feb. 14. The event is organized by the local government to help parents look for dating opportunities for their children. (Aly Song/Reuters) #

A chinese couple takes a picture in an interactive installation art work named 'You and Me' on Valentine's Day at 798 Art Zone in Beijing, China. Valentine's Day has become one of the most popular Western festivals celebrated in China. (Feng Li/Getty Images) #

A Pakistani woman hangs decorations at a shop selling Valentine's Day merchandise in Peshawar on Feb. 11. Peshawar is a conservative Muslim city, where many disapprove of Valentine's Day as a Western import. (Majeed/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Pakistani man prepares balloons for Valentines Day on a street in Islamabad, Pakistan on Feb. 14. (Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press) #

A man steps out of a shop selling gifts for Valentine's Day in east Jerusalem on Feb. 14. (Ammar Awad/Reuters) #

A Pakistani girl sells roses on a street on Valentine's Day in Lahore, Pakistan. (K.M.Chaudary/Associated Press) #

An Asian street vendor sells roses to drivers in the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah on Feb. 14 where open celebration of Valentine's Day is officially banned along with the desert kingdom's strict Islamic laws. (Amer Hilabi/AFP/Getty Images) #

A woman holds a flower on Valentine's Day in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images) #

Jorge Shafik Handal, who is running for mayor of San Salvador for the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front gives a flower to a women for Valentine's Day as he campaigns in San Salvador, El Salvador on Feb. 14.. El Salvador will hold elections for congressional representatives and mayors on March 11. (Luis Romero/Associated Press) #

An Iranian woman buys a Valentine's Day cake at a pastry shop in Tehran on Feb. 13 #

An Egyptian vendor leans on his car decorated with Teddy bears to attract customers on Valentine's Day, in Cairo, Egypt. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press) #

Celeste Roldan stands on discarded roses as she packages others from Ecuador at Liberty Wholesale in the flower market in preparation for Valentine's Day in Los Angeles on Feb. 10. Ninety percent of the flowers Americans will give to their sweethearts on Feb.14 are imported, and nearly all of those imports originate in Colombia and Ecuador. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters) #

A woman buys a Valentine's Day balloon under heavy snowfall in central Kiev, Ukraine on Feb. 14. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters) #

An African penguin named Howard carries a valentine heart written by a visitor at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco on Feb. 13. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press) #

A Chinese couple takes pictures at the "Million Lights, Million Hearts" display ahead of Valentine's Day celebrations at Shah Alam commercial hub i-City, outside Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13. (Samsul Said/Reuters) #

Thai-Swedish couple William Timhede, and Napatsawan Timhede kiss as they hang on a sling wire in a show known as a "flying wedding" as part of an adventure-themed wedding ceremony in Prachinburi province, Thailand. (Wason Wanichakorn/Associated Press) #