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Flowers, chocolates and flash mobs: Valentine’s Day celebrations around the world

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Flowers, chocolates, handwritten cards — and flash mobs.

People around the world expressed their love in myriad ways on Valentine’s Day: hanging hundreds of paper hearts in the streets to honor a recently deceased “Valentine’s Day Bandit” in Portland, Maine; vowing to cherish and obey democracy by casting votes in Valentine’s Day-themed polling stations in Indonesia; and donning heart-shaped sunglasses at a victory rally for the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs.

Images captured by Associated Press photographers around the globe Wednesday showed love is a many-faceted emotion, employed not just to root for long-lasting romances but to fight for justice and counteract anger and hatred.

In Rome, activists wearing matching red-and-black T-shirts reading “One Billion Rising” created a flash mob at the famed Spanish Steps to call for an end to violence against women and girls. In Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, women held candles and flowers during a “Dark Valentine” vigil to protest the deaths of at least 16 women police believe were killed by their partners this year.

Valentine's Day Hearts decorate a storefront on Exchange Street, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Portland, Maine. The public has helped honor the memory of Kevin Fahrman, the Valentine's Day Bandit who secretly hung hundreds of red paper hearts throughout the city every February 14th. Farman died last year. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Valentine’s Day Hearts decorate a storefront on Exchange Street, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Portland, Maine. The public has helped honor the memory of Kevin Fahrman, the Valentine’s Day Bandit who secretly hung hundreds of red paper hearts throughout the city every February 14th. Farman died last year. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

In Washington, D.C., where the vitriol of politics usually reigns, giant fake candy hearts reading “keep the faith,” “reach out” and “be kind” sprouted from the White House Lawn, and pink-and-red paper valentine’s greetings covered the walls of the East Landing. One enormous card from President Joe Biden’s first lady read, “Happy Valentine’s Day 2024. Xoxo Jill.”

For many, love means having a sense of humor, whether it’s gathering to celebrate being “married for one day” and mounting life-size kissing skeletons at a “‘Til Death Do Us Part” installation in Bucharest, Romania, or carving a dozen hearts and scrawling the message “I love my wife” in the dirt covering the back of a van after a nor’easter in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

A vendor uses a phone as she waits for customers at a flower shop on Valentine's Day in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

A vendor uses a phone as she waits for customers at a flower shop on Valentine’s Day in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

Tradition also had its place. Couples embraced in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, viewed by many as the City of Love; posed for a selfie in front of a hotel in St. Petersburg, Russia, where windows were lit to form a heart; or bought heart-shaped balloons from vendors next to the Bosphorus in Istanbul.

In the ultimate gesture of Valentine’s Day, Justin Shady proposed to his girlfriend, Nicolette Miller, with a giant, lit-up billboard during a Love in Times Square event in New York. She said “yes,” and amid floating streamers and clouds of confetti, the couple sealed the deal with a kiss.

Decorations for Valentine's Day adorn the White House lawn, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Decorations for Valentine's Day adorn the White House lawn, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Visitors to the White House take photos in front of Valentine's Day decorations in the East Landing, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Visitors to the White House take photos in front of Valentine's Day decorations in the East Landing, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A message drawn in the dirt on a van is seen on Valentine's Day following a nor'easter winter storm that dropped several inches of snow in Halifax on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP)

A message drawn in the dirt on a van is seen on Valentine’s Day following a nor’easter winter storm that dropped several inches of snow in Halifax on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP)

A man sells a heart shaped balloon to a couple next to the Bosphorus during Valentine's Day in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

A man sells a heart shaped balloon to a couple next to the Bosphorus during Valentine’s Day in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Activists perform during a "One Billion Rising" event at the Rome's Spanish Steps during a flash mob on Valentine's Day in Rome, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. The global campaign "One Billion Rising" calls for an end to violence against women and girls. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Activists perform during a "One Billion Rising" event at the Rome's Spanish Steps during a flash mob on Valentine's Day in Rome, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. The global campaign "One Billion Rising" calls for an end to violence against women and girls. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Women hold candles and flowers during a "Dark Valentine" vigil to demonstrate against the rising cases of femicide, in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
Women hold candles and flowers during a "Dark Valentine" vigil to demonstrate against the rising cases of femicide, in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
An electoral worker shows a ballot paper during the vote counting for the presidential and legislative election at a Valentine's Day-themed polling station in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
An electoral worker shows a ballot paper during the vote counting for the presidential and legislative election at a Valentine's Day-themed polling station in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
A man shows his finger inked to mark that he has already voted during the election at a Valentine's Day-themed polling station during the election in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
A man shows his finger inked to mark that he has already voted during the election at a Valentine's Day-themed polling station during the election in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
A couple kiss after a mock marriage ceremony dubbed "Married for one day" during a Valentine's Day event in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

A couple kiss after a mock marriage ceremony dubbed “Married for one day” during a Valentine’s Day event in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

A couple pose for a photographer in front of the Eiffel Tower, during Valentine's day, in Paris, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

A couple pose for a photographer in front of the Eiffel Tower, during Valentine’s day, in Paris, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Couples pose for a photograph during the Valentine's Day in London, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Couples pose for a photograph during the Valentine’s Day in London, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Justin Shady, left, kisses Nicolette Miller after she accepted his marriage proposal during a Love in Times Square event, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in New York's Times Square. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Justin Shady, left, kisses Nicolette Miller after she accepted his marriage proposal during a Love in Times Square event, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in New York’s Times Square. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

A couple take a selfie photo in front of a heart formed with lights switched on in hotel rooms during Valentine's Day in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

A couple take a selfie photo in front of a heart formed with lights switched on in hotel rooms during Valentine’s Day in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

People look at a skeleton couple kissing installation dubbed " 'Till Death Do Us Part" during a Valentine's Day event in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

People look at a skeleton couple kissing installation dubbed “ ‘Till Death Do Us Part” during a Valentine’s Day event in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

A Kansas City Chiefs fan brought her Valentine's Day spirit to the Super Bowl victory rally in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

A Kansas City Chiefs fan brought her Valentine’s Day spirit to the Super Bowl victory rally in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

A couple embrace next to the Bosphorus during Valentine's Day in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

A couple embrace next to the Bosphorus during Valentine’s Day in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)