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Love comes cheap this Valentine’s Day

London — Love was in the air on Saint Valentine’s Day, but with a much lower price tag this year as the global economic crisis hit Cupid in the pocket.

Lovers around the world marked Saturday’s annual celebration of romance in time-honored tradition. But while heart strings were tugged, many did all they could to avoid pulling too hard on purse strings.

In Britain, lovers were bombarded with handy tips on getting away with love on the cheap.

Captain Crunch of The Sun newspaper gave readers "top tips for turning today into Value-tine’s Day."
They included downloading a free Valentine’s card from the Internet, and information on which supermarkets are the best for bagging a cheap bunch of roses.

"Poundland has a huge range of risqué Valentine’s gifts including an edible G-string, furry handcuffs and a mask and whip set," readers were told. "Don’t be ashamed to be one of the stay-at-home majority."

Meanwhile, in a bid to "turn up the romance and beat the credit crunch", the Energy Saving Trust urged people to bypass expensive gifts and just get straight under the covers instead for some no-nonsense romping. "This Valentine’s Day is all about getting back to basics with some old-fashioned romance — and saving money and energy at the same time."

Couples were urged to turn off the lights and use candles instead, share a bath or shower, snuggle under the duvet and have fun with eco-friendly chocolate.

The Church of England put the emphasis on spending time rather than money with a new romantic prayer.

"Loving God, on this Valentine’s Day, we might give gifts like flowers or cards, or look forward to the romance of a meal out, but the joy of sharing in these things is our time together," the prayer said.

But in Wales, a bus company’s attempt to encourage a marriage proposal on board one of its vehicles equipped with champagne and chocolates fell flat when no-one in Wrexham took up the offer.

"It just looks as though it wasn’t meant to be," a spokesman for Arriva Wales said.

In Paris, the city of love, thinkers pondered on what the financial downturn means for romance.

Psychiatrist Samuel Lepastier told Le Parisien newspaper that this year was "more about the chance to celebrate rather than the meaning of Saint Valentine’s Day. In times of crisis, it’s a brief moment in which people can escape from the gloom. Any chance to do so is good.”

In Utrecht in the Netherlands, 1,637 couples, mostly dressed in red, kissed simultaneously outside Europe’s biggest dolphinarium to set a new Dutch record.

"Couples had to kiss for 10 seconds at least, but some carried on for much longer," said dolphinarium spokesman Bert van Plateringen.

In South Africa, the former penal colony where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 17 years held an annual mass Valentine’s Day wedding ceremony.

Organizers said 16 couples from around the world tied the knot in the historic Robben Island chapel.

"One couple came from England, others were from the continent and around the country," said island spokeswoman Shalo Mbatha.

More than 150 couples have been married in the island’s chapel since 2000.

In Sweden, getting married on Valentine’s Day is a growing trend, according to a study by the national statistics bureau.

Getting hitched in chilly February remains a rare option but nearly half of the 3,500 couples that have married on Valentine’s Day have done so since 2000.

In Baghdad, red roses were selling at a premium, as the improved security situation meant optimism was returning and traders could stay open longer.

"The old customers are coming back, security is better,” said Yussef Mohammed, owner of the Flowers of Babylon shop in the Al-Arassat district. “There’s a marked difference this year."

But in Saudi Arabia, florists were hiding the roses in the annual battle between romantics and the feared Islamic police, who each year try to convince the public that Valentine’s Day is a heathen holiday not suitable for the homeland of Islam.

Robin Millard/AFP/Expatica