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Valentine's Day 2012

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Today is Valentine's Day, a day set aside for expressions of love and affection. The traditional western holiday has spread to many countries around the globe, despite some efforts by religious and cultural groups to fight its adoption. Valentine's Day spending in the U.S. this year is expected to reach nearly $15 billion -- $2 billion of it on flowers alone. Ninety percent of the flowers Americans will give to their sweethearts are imported, and nearly all of those imports originate in Colombia and Ecuador. Included in today's posting is an 18-photo series depicting the voyage of the roses from South American farm to florists worldwide. [37 photos]

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A couple kisses during a flashmob organized by a local television station on the eve of Valentine's Day in the Russian city of Stavropol, on February 13, 2012. (Reuters/Eduard Korniyenko)
A couple kisses during a flashmob organized by a local television station on the eve of Valentine's Day in the Russian city of Stavropol, on February 13, 2012. (Reuters/Eduard Korniyenko)
Thai-Swedish couple William Timhede, 23, left, and Napatsawan Timhede, 39, swing out on a rappelling rope as part of an adventure-themed wedding ceremony in Prachinburi province, Thailand, on February 13, 2012, on the eve of Valentine's Day. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn) #
Pink roses in a flower shop, the day before Valentine's day, in Vienna, Austria, on February 13, 2012. (Reuters/Lisi Niesner) #
(1 of 18) An aerial view of the Rio Roses farm where workers are preparing roses for export before the upcoming Valentine's Day in Cayambe, Ecuador, on February 8, 2012. Ninety percent of the flowers Americans will give to their sweethearts are imported, and nearly all of those imports originate in Colombia and Ecuador. (Reuters/Guillermo Granja) #
(2 of 18) A worker prepares roses for export before the upcoming Valentine's Day at Rio Roses greenhouse in Cayambe, Ecuador, on February 8, 2012. (Reuters/Guillermo Granja) #
(3 of 18) A worker picks out roses for Valentine's Day, at a farm in Cajica, Colombia, on January 30, 2012. Colombia exports 450 million flowers for Valentine's Day, and flower farmers say that day alone accounts for 12 percent of their annual income. (Reuters/John Vizcaino) #
(4 of 18) Workers select roses to be packed ahead of Valentine's Day at a flower farm of "The Elite flowers" company in Facatativa, near Bogota, Colombia, on February 1, 2012. In giant greenhouses outside Bogota, the flowers are clipped and shipped worldwide, accounting for 65 percent of the roses imported in the United States and many of the bouquets delivered in Europe. (Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images) #
(5 of 18) A worker packs a rose to be shipped to the US ahead of Valentine's Day at the Mongibello flower company in Chia, Colombia, Monday, on January 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara) #
(6 of 18) Workers prepare bouquets of flowers at a flower farm of "The Elite flowers" company in Facatativa, Colombia, on February 1, 2012. (Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images) #
(7 of 18) Flowers are displayed during a venue at Veiling Rhein-Maas wholesale flower auction center five days before Valentine's Day on February 9, 2012 in Straelen, Germany. (Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images) #
(8 of 18) A worker prepares roses for export at Elite greenhouse in Facatativa, Colombia, on February 6, 2012. (Reuters/Jose Miguel Gomez) #
(9 of 18) An Ecuadorean police dog named Simon sniffs for drugs in flowers packed for export and ready to be loaded onto cargo planes at Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport, in Ecuador, on February 10, 2012. (Reuters/Guillermo Granja) #
(10 of 18) A worker of wholesaler Bloomways moves flowers for dispatch at their warehouse five days before Valentines Day on February 9, 2012 in Straelen, Germany. (Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images) #
(11 of 18) A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist uses a magnifying glass to look at a snail that he found and placed in a bottle to identify later, while inspecting flowers for any foreign pests or diseases at the UPS facility at Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida, on February 10, 2012. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) #
(12 of 18) A customs inspector X-rays boxes of flowers packed for export, checking for drugs at Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito, Ecuador, on February 10, 2012. (Reuters/Guillermo Granja) #
(13 of 18) A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist holds a bottle containing a tiny snail that he found and placed in the bottle to identify later while inspecting flowers for foreign pests or diseases at the UPS facility at Miami International Airport February 10, 2012. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) #
(14 of 18) Red roses packed for dispatch wait for transportation at the International Flower Auction Bangalore, Ltd., on the eve of Valentine's Day on February 13, 2012. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images) #
(15 of 18) FedEx worker Johnny Brown sorts some of about 25,000 boxes of flowers from ProFlowers at the FedEx airport facility at Oakland Airport in California, on February 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) #
(16 of 18) Workmen wheel roses into the flower market in preparation for Valentine's Day in Los Angeles, on February 10, 2012. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson) #
(17 of 18) Sandeep Nagra stands in a pile of cut flowers while making Valentine's Day arrangements at the Yuba City Florist in Yuba City, California, on February 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Appeal-Democrat, Chris Kaufman) #
(18 of 18) A man sweeps the sidewalk outside a florist shop decked with roses in preparation for Valentine's Day in Los Angeles, on February 10, 2012. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson) #
A Muslim 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, Malaysia, on February 13, 2012. Islamic authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia have been conducting raids on Valentine's Day after an edict was issued in 2005 banning Muslims from celebrating the occasion, considered a Western celebration that could erode Muslim's faith. (Reuters/Samsul Said) #
A couple place a lock on a bridge railing of the so-called "Bridge of Love" to celebrate St. Valentine's Day in Kiev, Ukraine, on February 14, 2012. Words on the lock reads "Love forever". Hundreds of locks that lovers leave as the symbols of their love decorate the bridge, covered with the names of the couples. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #
African penguin Howard carries a valentine heart written by a visitor to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, on February 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) #
Women march through downtown Sydney demanding lingerie themed Valentine's Day gifts during a rally sponsored by a lingerie company in Australia, on February 13, 2012. (Photo/Rob Griffith) #
A heart-shaped sculpture made of sand and stone, during low tide at a beach in Hong Kong, on Valentine's Day February 14, 2012. (Reuters/Bobby Yip) #
An Iranian woman buys a Valentine's Day cake at a pastry shop in Tehran, on February 13, 2012. (Reuters/Raheb Homavandi) #
A patissier serves chocolate syrup to visitors at a "chocolate spa" at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, on February 12, 2012. The spa is the venue for the month-long event amid the celebrations for St. Valentine's Day. (Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images) #
Pakistani women belonging to religious party Jamiat-e-Ulama Pakistan shout slogans as they set fire to a Valentine's card during a protest against Valentine's day in Karachi, on February 14, 2012. Valentine's Day is increasingly celebrated in Pakistan, a Muslim country where many conservatives disapprove of the occasion as a Western import. (Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images) #
In a celebration of Valentine's Day, couples try to set the record for the largest synchronized kiss in Virginia on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall in Winchester, Virginia, on February 11, 2012. The record of 97 couples was set last year at the first Big Kiss. (AP Photo/The Winchester Star, Jeff Taylor) #
Thai-Swedish couple William Timhede, 23, left and Napatsawan Timhede, 39, are chased by an actor in pirate costume as part of an adventure-themed wedding ceremony in Prachinburi province, Thailand, on February 13, 2012, on the eve of Valentine's Day. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn) #
A woman looks at a 2-meter tall, 3-meter long shoe made of 60 kg (132 lbs) of chocolate on display for Valentine's Day, at a department store in Seoul, South Korea, on February 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man) #
Muslim women shop for lingerie for sale ahead of Valentine's Day at the port city of Sidon, Lebanon, on February 11, 2012. (Reuters/Ali Hashisho) #
An employee applies gold leaf to a client's face at the Viet My beauty salon in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 13, 2012. Despite tough economic conditions, including soaring inflation, people in Vietnam seem to be spending heavily as usual on special occasions like Valentine's Day. Viet My is one of a small number of salons in Vietnam that provides 24k gold leaf face mask therapy, said to help make skin whiter. A single facial costs 1.8 million Vietnam dong ($86.41). (Reuters/Kham) #
A young couple kisses in the Vltava River during a festival held in the center of Prague, Czech Republic, on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2012. (AP Photo/CTK, Michal Kamaryt) #
An autorickshaw ferries roses from the International Flower Auction Bangalore, on February 13, 2012. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images) #
Lela Mc Arthur, left, and Stephanie Figarelle, both from Anchorage, Alaska, pose for photos on the observation deck after their Valentine's Day wedding ceremony at the Empire State Building, in New York City, on February 14, 2012. The two women, who met at the University of Alaska, became the first same-sex couple to be married at the Empire State Building. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) #

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