Mountains of crimson red hearts; thickly cut cards; boxed compartmentalized chocolates; pink-accented stuffed pets; and assorted flower arrangements claim their own aisles in most markets during the second month of the year, and they sit at the head of certain bodegas -- near the register, along with decorative pins, all in preparation of Saint Valentine's Day -- observed on Feb. 14. San Valentín, in Latin America, is a day reserved for passion, sensual love, expectations, and the material exchange of tokens of affection, all to show devotion and commitment. Valentine's Day in many Latin American countries also promotes "acts of appreciation" for friends, applauding non-romantic love.

Valentine's Day's origin dates back to ancient Rome, an era when there was a ban against marriage, placed by Emperor Claudius II, who believed that single men made better soldiers. Nonetheless, Valentine, a priest and a zealous romantic, chose to continue to marry young couples in spite of the emperor's ruling. The priest's insubordination resulted in him being jailed. But, while imprisoned, Valentine feel in love with a women who frequently visited him and, before his death, he wrote her a charming love note, henceforth known as a "valentine." There are other origin stories, however, involving the Pagan Lupercalia festival, which is a pre-Roman festival observed on Feb. 13 through 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, and Pope Gelasius, who is credited for establishing Valentine's Day.

In Brazil, Valentine's day isn't celebrated in February because it usually falls on or around Brazil Carnival. For that reason a lot of Westerners visit Brazil at that time to avoid the holiday. Instead, Brazil celebrates Dia dos Namorados on June 12. Brazil's celebration honors Saint Anthony, who is the patron saint of matchmaking, and marriages. Single women participate in a number of rituals, including one that involves writing down the name of a man on a slip of paper on the eve of Namorados, folding the paper, and then the exchanging the pieces of paper with others on to determine who each woman will marry.

Valentine's Day is celebrated on Feb. 14 in Peru, and orchids are normally exchanged in lieu of roses. In Mexico, Día de San Valentin or El Día del Amor y la Amistad (the day of love and friendship) begins after Christmas, adoration and prosperity is expressed through gifts of candies, balloons and flowers, especially among migrant laborers. Also, July 30 is dedicated to "International Friendship Day." Guatemala commemorates the comparable El Día del Cariño, where flowers are exchanged, chocolates are shared and cards are traded. In Guatemala, tokens of affection aren't simply shared with significant others. Friends, coworkers and family are also celebrated.

Bolivia enjoys Día del Amor on Sept. 21, a day that also applauds "Student, youth, spring and love," and Día del amor y la amistad is celebrated on July 23. Colombia celebrates the day of Valentine's on the third Saturday of September, and a game called Amigo Secreto is played. Argentinians practices "Sweetness Week" and "Friendship Day" during July 13-20, and everyone gifts one another candy and kisses.