When you think of Valentine’s Day, you might think of candy hearts, boxes of chocolate, and grocery store aisles lined with red. There is an excellent chance, however, that you also think about flowers.
Valentine’s Day and flowers have been synonymous for centuries as flowers can symbolize fertility, love, marriage, and romance. But you might have noticed we don’t just send any flowers come February 14th: Roses, peonies, and carnations all share the same white, red, and pink hues perfect for Valentine’s Day. Below, we’ll walk you through a flower-filled Valentine’s Day history.
Valentine’s Day History
The folklore surrounding Valentine’s Day dates it back to the third century, in Rome. As the story goes, Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers, so he outlawed marriage for young men. A young priest named Valentine was furious with this injustice and so defied Claudius by continuing to perform marriages for lovers in secret. Claudius eventually discovered Valentine’s actions and sentenced him to death. From his jail cell, Valentine sent letters signed “From, Your Valentine,” from which the phrase we use today stemmed.
While we cannot be certain that this version of events actually occurred, we know more concretely that Valentine’s Day is a Western Christian festival celebrated on February 14th honoring one or two early saints named Valentine, or Valentinus. It began its association with romantic love in the 14th Century, thanks to writers like Geoffrey Chaucer (of Canterbury Tales fame) and the practice of courtly love (the medieval literary conception of love that emphasized nobility and chivalry.) By the 18th century, the holiday had evolved into one where lovers sent one another flowers, confectionery, and greeting cards.
So Why Valentine’s Day Flowers?
The history of Valentine’s Day flowers might have developed more recently than that of the holiday itself.
In the 18th century, introduced by Charles II of Sweden, the custom of sending floral bouquets to pass on non-verbal messages became more mainstream. Each flower had a specific meaning attached to it, making it possible to have an entire conversation using only flowers. This form of communication is called floriography, or the cryptological communication through the arrangement of flowers.
Red roses meant – what else? – Romance, and thus is the most commonly given flower on Valentine’s Day. Pink roses meant gratitude and appreciation, whereas white meant innocence and purity. Carnations, another popular Valentine’s Day choice, meant an aching heart and admiration.
During the Victorian Era, floriography became commonly used to express messages that Victorian etiquette deemed unacceptable to share openly. The language of flowers was much more than the singular meaning given to a flower, it was also the combining, presenting, and receiving of flowers. The first flower dictionary was written in 1819 in Paris, followed closely by an entire book written by Miss Corruthers of Inverness, which quickly became the guide to the meanings behind flowers throughout England and the United States.
The Victorian Era opened the door to the floral industry in two ways: first, it popularized the sending and receiving of bouquets, and second, it brought floral design into the public lexicon. Alongside the introduction of floriography came traditional bouquet arrangements as we know them. Think a nosegay bouquet or a tussie-mussie.
So it seems we send today’s Valentine’s Day flowers as part of a long-standing tradition of love and admiration. While we might not survey them for symbolic clues as closely as we used to, we certainly pay attention to things like color, bloom choice, and presentation.
Counting Your Valentines: By The Numbers
Today, Valentine’s Day is the second most popular card-sending holiday, and Americans do about 19.6 billon dollars worth of spending each year, $2 billion of that coming from flowers alone. 73 percent of Valentine’s Day flowers are sent by men, although it’s never too late to change the tide and order your man some flowers. An estimated 198 million roses were sold in the U.S. last year, with carnations, lilies, and tulips trailing closely behind.
Gifting 101: Sending Flowers
Whether you’re celebrating yourself, your spouse, or your best friends, floral Bouqs are a perfect way to show how much you care. They’re a beautiful and fresh reminder that romantic and platonic love makes our lives better.
Hopefully, your next successful February 14th won’t depend on your knowledge of Valentine’s Day history. But it can’t hurt to be reminded of the symbolism of Valentine’s Day flowers to inspire you when picking out the perfect Bouq for your loved one!Shop All