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Valentine's Day brings out hard-liners, confectionary critters

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  • Thai province reportedly turning away couples seeking Valentine's Day divorce
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  • Survey: Eight million Americans have sent themselves a Valentine's Day gift
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From Saeed Ahmed
CNN
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(CNN) -- Ah, Valentine's Day! That time of the year when the pressure's on to show you really, really care.

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Eight million Americans have sent themselves a gift on Valentine's Day, a survey says.

What started out as essentially a Christian holiday is now celebrated the world over -- with unique local twists and, sometimes, amid much resistance from hard-liners who want to defend traditional values from "Westernization."

Here's a sampling of how the big day is being celebrated worldwide. Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, would be proud:

Big in Japan: Bugs!

A hot item in Japan this Valentine's Day? Edible chocolate creepy-crawlies made to look like real beetle larvae and caterpillars.

The confections are flying off the shelves, with buyers traveling an hour out of their way to get their hands on some.

In Japan, February 14 is a day when women buy gifts for their men. And that may help explain why odd and unusual gifts are so appealing, said CNN's Kyung Lah. Video Watch women in Japan shop for gifts »

When you want to say 'I do(n't)'

A northeastern province in Thailand has decided to turn away any couple who wants to file for divorce on Valentine's Day.

"If a married couple shows up for a divorce, we will recommend they go back home and talk to clear up any misunderstanding. That may rekindle their love," Suthep Pimpirat, assistant district chief of Roi Et, told Bangkok's The Nation newspaper Wednesday.

On the other side of the world, a Charleston, West Virginia, classic rock radio station is giving away a free divorce.

WKLC-FM, better known as Rock 105, is accepting applications on its Web site and has retained an attorney who will handle the actual filing.

Can't buy me love

Worried about the economy, South Koreans are passing on expensive chocolates this Valentine's Day in favor of cheap candy from China.

Imports of pricey chocolates from Switzerland and Italy -- "an icon of Valentine's Day presents" -- has fallen sharply, the Korea Times said Wednesday. Candy from China, however, showed a 20 percent growth, the newspaper said.

One is a lonely number

The flowers on the front desk might not be from a significant other. Eight million Americans have sent themselves a gift on Valentine's Day, according to a survey released this month.

The telephone poll of 1,000 Americans, conducted by the marketing technology company Bill Me Later and surveyors Ipsos Insight, also found 6 million people have broken up with someone on February 14.

Love potions

When it comes to matters of the heart, many in South Africa believe some "muti" will help if you're lonely, lovesick or simply looking for a bit of fun, reports CNN's Robyn Curnow.

More than 80 percent of Africans use traditional medicine and herbal remedies, according to the World Health Organization. And traditional healers say they can make up to $28 for a love remedy. Video Watch Curnow visit potion sellers »

The medicine men say the herbs, barks and plants can help make a husband respect his wife or an uninterested neighbor fall head over heels in love. If you want to cut to the chase, the healers can mix up an African version of Viagra, named "Bangalala."

"I become beautiful. People love me. Ladies love me. Just perfect," a happy customer, Mpho Tshisaphungo, told CNN.

Every move you make, I'll be watching you

A hard-line Hindu political party has said it will have members patrol the central Indian city of Indore to ensure that couples don't engage in "any kind of vulgar display of their love" on February 14.

The Shiv Sena group said it will focus on botanical gardens and art galleries, among other places, and "if any youth was found to be teasing girls and offering them flowers or cards under pressure, his face will be blackened," the Central Chronicle newspaper reported.

You don't bring me (red) flowers

Gift shops and florists in Saudi Arabia have removed red items from their inventory until after Valentine's Day, because the country considers the celebration of such a holiday a sin.

Four years ago, the Grand Mufti -- the highest religious official -- restated a previously issued decree that declared Valentine's Day a "pagan Christian holiday" that could not be celebrated publicly, according to the U.S. State Department.

"Around Valentine's Day, there are two things the religious police concentrate on," one florist told CNN this week. "Standard gifts that people give to each other on Valentine's Day, and sweets. Anything to do with red wrapping paper or red boxes, heart-shaped in particular, will get the retailer in trouble."

A diplomat in Riyadh told CNN: "If you look at one of the major hotels, The Four Seasons for example, last week all the roses in the lobby were red. This week they are yellow."

E-mail that steals more than your heart

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Be wary of virtual greeting cards that proclaim undying love showing up in your e-mail inbox on February 14.

The FBI said the e-card actually could be the Storm Worm virus. Once you click on a link to retrieve the card, the virus downloads on to your computer hard drive and infects it -- kind of like the cyber equivalent of a sexually transmitted disease. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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