Have you ever wondered how we came to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day with roses? Do you know how Valentine’s Day began?
In Roman times, when the Empire had turned to Christianity, a very romantic priest defied Emperor Claudius II’s edict forbidding all marriages. During the 3rd century AD, Rome was involved in several bloody wars, and the Emperor felt that marriage and love distracted his soldiers, thus forbidding all young and able men to marry. However, Valentinus secretly performed the ceremony and married many young couples. When he was discovered, his defiance was seen as treason and was condemned to death. Legend has it that during his time in jail, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and he left her a final note signed “From your Valentine.” He was named a saint by Pope Gelasius in AD 496, and by the Middle Ages, St. Valentine had become a romantic hero and the patron saint of lovers. On his day, people celebrated romance and love by exchanging notes and flowers.
Roses became an important part of this romantic celebration in the early 18th century thanks to King Charles II of Sweden, who brought to his court and Europe the art of floriography, or the language of flowers. During the Victorian era, people made flower arrangements following detailed meanings and codes in order to express their feelings to their beloved. Gifts of blooms, plants, and specific floral arrangements were used to send a coded message to the recipient: entire conversations could be carried out without a single word.
For example, a bouquet of assorted-colored roses meant “You are everything to me;” a bunch of red tulips represented a declaration of love; a single flower presented with the right hand meant “yes” and with the left it was considered a “no.”
Due to its versatility, beauty, and variety, the rose quickly became one of the most popular flowers used to express love, devotion, and sometimes, hidden feelings. It has varied from culture to culture, and from age to age, but, all in all, this stunning flower has become a classic symbol of love in all its variations. For instance, a single red rose is an elegant way to say, “I love you,” a bouquet of pink roses tells your beloved that you are perfectly happy with them, and red and white roses express unity.
And why do red roses represent love and passion? Thanks to the Greek goddess of love of course!
According to the myth, Aphrodite was madly in love with Adonis, the most handsome youth in the world. They were inseparable, spending hours on end strolling through the woods, and wherever the joyful couple passed, flowers bloomed and life exploded. However, knowing of Adonis’ love of hunting and that her jealous lover Ares could transform into boars or lions, Aphrodite warned him to stay away from all wild animals. Adonis, who was a willful youth, forgot his promise to Aphrodite, and one day chasing a handsome boar, the irate animal turned on him, and attacked and mortally wounded the boy. Aphrodite rushed to his side. As she ran, she stepped on a white rosebush and pricked her foot, thus sprinkling her blood on the white petals. Unfortunately, she was too late to save him, and to honor her grief and love, the white rose petals of the flowering bush turned red and the first red roses were born from the goddess blood. Since then, the red rose has become a symbol of committed love, passion, and desire.