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Flowers for Valentines: A Long-Honoured Tradition of Love and Romance

By Susie Cosack, Master Gardener, SCMG

Flowers have long been associated with expressions of love, and no occasion displays this symbolism more than Valentine’s Day.
The gifting of flowers on Valentine’s Day has deep historical roots. The exchanging of flowers can be dated back to Roman and Christian customs. The Romans celebrated the festival of Lupercalia in mid-February, which was dedicated to fertility and the arrival of spring. During the festival, young men would choose their partners and present them with floral bouquets as a symbol of love and admiration. The Christian roots of Valentine’s Day date back to the ancient devotion of Saint Valentine, who defiantly performed weddings in the 3rd century during the Christian persecutions. Imprisoned, he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and sent her letters signed ‘from your Valentine’ before his execution on February 14th. This connection with love and martyrdom strengthened Valentine’s Day as a celebration of romantic love.

Over time the tradition of giving flowers on Valentine’s Day continued to evolve. It was in the Victorian era the language of flowers grew in popularity. Floriography, a concept that assigned specific meanings to different flowers, allowed people to express their feelings without words. For example, red roses symbolized love, while yellow roses meant friendship. It began a deeper significance to the act of giving flowers on Valentine’s Day.

In the mid-19th. century Esther Howland started a successful business creating floral designed Valentine cards, continuing the tradition of keeping flowers an integral part of Valentine’s day. Richard Cadbury excelled in the commercialization of February 14th by introducing the concept of heart shaped boxes of chocolates. By pairing flowers with chocolates, Valentine’s Day has become the consumer culture’s most popular day of the year.

The flower industry greatly benefits from the tradition of flowers for Valentine’s Day. The Day supports flower growers, retailers and all those who work for them. Online florists and virtual bouquets are becoming more and more popular. Now trending, is a growing interest for buying and giving locally or ethically sourced flowers, reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation.

The act of giving flowers (and chocolates) is not limited to romantic partners. Friends, family members and even co-workers exchange gifts to show love and appreciation. The emotional impact of receiving flowers on this special day is undeniable, bringing happiness, joy and a sense of being cherished. The long-honoured tradition on Valentine’s Day ensures that the language of flowers remains a timeless expression of love and romance.