Every year in February, millions of lovers, spouses, and partners celebrate their love for each other on Valentine’s Day. Some might be surprised to learn that it was first declared as a national holiday way back in 1537 by Henry VII.
Over the years, it has transformed into a lovefest, especially in Western countries like the UK. Card shops suddenly became overwhelmed with hearts and romantic messages, and your local flower shop will undoubtedly be getting in a good supply of pristine red roses for the occasion.
Who Was St Valentine?
Roman Emperor Claudius II wanted more people to enlist in his armies and passed a law preventing marriages throughout Rome, thus ensuring that men couldn’t use the excuse of not leaving their wife or family.
However, a priest who disagreed with this draconian act continued to help couples get married secretly. When Claudius found out, he had the unlucky priest beaten and then murdered. The date of his death was the 14th of February.
Almost 300 years later, Valentine was made a saint, and from that moment on, the anniversary of his death came to signify love and commitment.
The Tradition of Giving Flowers
Flowers, particularly the red rose, are associated strongly with Valentine’s Day, and there are several reasons for this. The rose is linked to the ancient Greek god of love, Eros, which is an anagram. However, it wasn’t until around the 17th century that flowers became an integral part of the big day. Roses were specifically chosen because they were supposed to be the favoured flower of Venus.
Over the years, different rose colours have been sent to express certain feelings. Red roses are often given when love is in the full bloom of passion. They stand romance and beauty. Pink roses are slightly more nuanced, traditionally sending a message of appreciation and gratitude.
Other flowers are also used to express love and can be an ideal alternative on Valentine’s Day for the one you care so much about. These include white roses (often a favourite for weddings), lilies, carnations, and chrysanthemums.
Cards and Chocolates
Of course, it’s not all about flowers. Over 145 million cards are sent on Valentine’s Day each year in America. In the UK, we send about 25 million. The first card for this special occasion is thought to have been sent by the Duke of Orléans in France, but mass-produced cards didn’t start until the mid-19th century in America.
Chocolate is the ideal gift for Valentine’s Day because it is thought to be an aphrodisiac and contains substances that inflame the desire. The heart-shaped box for sale on the 1st of February came on the market in 1927 and was the invention of Russell Stover, one of the leading chocolatiers of the time.
Of course, another tradition of Valentine’s Day is the romantic, candlelit dinner for two. Whether that’s out at a restaurant or in the privacy of your home, it’s the most intimate way to profess your love. Combine it with a few strategically placed roses, and you have the perfect set-up for a romantic celebration.