Category Archives: Valentines

Valentines Flowers and Symbols

Hi there, it’s Ken Bolt from Brant Florist and nothing is more associated with love than Valentine’s Day flowers. We usually give roses, of course, along with other traditional gifts such as chocolate, heart-shaped candies or cards, etc. Almost all of these items and symbols come from antiquity with a lot of interesting mythology and historical background to them.

Valentine’s Day started sometime in the Christian Roman times. Most cultures have had a day similar to Valentine’s, but the timing and (often) the symbolism varied. Our modern, Western day and tradition comes from a mixture of the ancient Roman worship of Juno, Queen of the Gods and later, Christian traditions. Juno was celebrated on February 14 and people feasted on February 15. This feast was the rite of passage for young men of the time, who would draw names of available young girls and take them as a companion for a year.

Hearts Of Gold Bouquet by Teleflora
Hearts Of Gold Bouquet by Teleflora

Shortly before the Romans adopted Christianity, Claudius II, in an effort to bolster the Legions, outlawed marriage for young men. This was meant to make them fiercer warriors, since they would have no home, family, or wives to pine over while they were in the field. A Christian priest named Valentine saw this as unjust and secretly performed marriages in spite of the law.

He was caught and imprisoned and while jailed, fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and wrote a letter he signed ‘From your Valentine.’ On February 14, probably 270 A.D., he was beheaded for his crime. Pope Gelasius declared him a saint and created Saint Valentine’s Day in about 498 A.D.

The giving of Valentine’s Day flowers probably began in the 1700s when Charles II of Sweden introduced the Persian custom of the ‘language of flowers’ to Europe. The red rose was considered the flower symbolizing passion and love, and was associated in Greek and Roman times with Venus, goddess of love. Similarly, other cultural flowers symbolizing passion or love, such as tulips, carnations, and the iris, have also been associated with Valentine’s Day.

Cupid, of course, is also associated with the Greek goddess Venus. Venus became jealous of the beauty of a mortal woman, Psyche, and sent Cupid to make the girl fall in love with a low, base, and unworthy being. Cupid follows orders, but is startled by Psyche’s beauty and accidentally shoots himself with his arrow. He immediately falls in love with her, ruining the plot.

Speaking of love, hearts are also intimately associated with Valentine’s Day. This tradition may come from Asia, rather than the West. In China, the heart is a symbol of thought, life, and emotions and our current beliefs have likely coupled that with the Roman belief that the heart contains the human soul. The Egyptians, possibly influenced by Eastern beliefs, considered the heart to be the centre of emotion. Our current symbolism involving hearts likely draws from all of these sources.

The FTD Red Rose & Chocolate Bouquet
The FTD Red Rose & Chocolate Bouquet

All of this comes together on Valentine’s Day as we give flowers, candies, heart-shaped items like cards, etc. Other traditions we have, of course, are much more modern. The annual marriages on the 80th floor of the Empire State Building, for instance, take place on Valentine’s Day for a select few couples who demonstrate their desire through an essay competition to win a coveted marriage spot there.

The holiday is so popular that two cities in America, one in Nebraska and another in Texas, are named Valentine. So however you symbolize your love this Valentine’s Day, remember that all of this has roots deep in human history.

Until next time,

Ken Bolt

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