Valentine’s Day has a long history, with roots that can be traced back to the time of the Roman Empire, as well as ancient pagan festivals. And the giving of flowers as symbols of love goes back to the ancient Roman gods too – Bacchus and Venus both related flowers with romance and love. But how did Valentine’s Day and flowers get linked?
Let’s start with the Roman gods. Roman mythology has all manner of gods and goddesses, living the high life on top of Mount Olympus. The mother of all gods is Juno, the queen and mother, who was celebrated on February 14th. Roman mythology also has a great many festivals, a large proportion dedicated to women, marriage and fertility (of the woman and of the earth.)
The day after Juno’s day was Lupercalia, a festival local to the city of Rome, and dedicated also to women, marriage and fertility. Lupercalia celebrates Lupercus (god of pastures, fallow ground and woodlands) and Faunus (god of agriculture and cultivated land.) Pope Gelasius I abolished Lupercalia in the 5th Century AD; he is thought to have done this to Christianize the ancient festival, though it’s not agreed by scholars if he dedicated the festival to th Virgin Mary (more fertility and women), or one of the three Saints Valentine, all martyred.
The festival continued, and in the 14th Century its popularity really began to surge in much of Europe. In particular, the custom of writing notes, and giving flowers and sweet treats really took off in England, France and Italy. Valentine’s is mentioned in the writings of Chaucer, Shakespeare, John Donne, and others. In historical reference, the earliest surviving Valentine’s note is a rondeau, written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, in the 15th Century.
By Victorian times, English printers were producing cards in volume. The tradition of sending cards was already in the US, but not quite so prevalent at the time. The tradition expanded rapidly until today over a billion Valentine’s cards are exchanged, world-wide, making it the second biggest card-giving occasion in the year.
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So if this Valentine’s Day you give the gift of flowers to your sweetheart, you’re following in a long line of tradition stretching back a few thousand years. Do you know yet what flowers you’ll give, and what the meaning of these flowers is? Let us help you out. If you’re considering roses, read this article to understand what they symbolize. If your sweetheart doesn’t like roses, or you’d like to be a little unconventional, see how to celebrate Valentine’s Day without roses. Whatever kind of floral declaration of your love you give, we wish you a happy Valentine’s Day, full of love and intimacy, and a deep and close connection.