The answer lies in years and years of cultural tradition. Let’s start at the beginning.
Many historians believe Valentine’s Day started as an ancient, pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia which was celebrated by the Romans on February 13 through February 15. Lupercalia comes from the Roman god Lupus which is associated with Sheppard’s, harvests and fertility. Legend has it, Roman priests would assemble in a cave, where they believed the founders of Rome Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf. The Roman priests would sacrifice a goat and a dog to rid the city of evil spirits and restore fertility to the land and people. Afterwards, the priests would dip the goat skins in blood, walk the streets and slather the foreheads of young woman to increase their fertility.
Some historians also believe the young women of the city would put their names into a drawing for the city’s bachelors. The bachelors would then select a name and the two would be coupled for the year often resulting in marriage. As time progressed the Roman Catholic Church deemed the Lupercalia festival as a pagan holiday and instead changed the tradition to St. Valentine’s on February 14th.
St. Valentine is believed to have been a martyr priest during the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius. Valentine would marry young people in secret after Claudius outlawed marriage because he believed unmarried men made better soldiers. Valentine was then sentenced to prison and death, but before he died he fell in love with the jail keeper’s daughter. In his last letter to her he inscribed “From your Valentine” a tradition which is still celebrated today.
But what about the flowers?
Centuries later, during the Middle Ages, Europeans began writing love letters to one another on February 14th in commemoration of St. Valentine. According to the History Channel, the oldest known valentine was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
As the years passed, Europeans were discouraged to express their emotions directly to one another. From the 1700s and throughout the Victorian Error (1837-1901) people began sending flowers as messages to one another in what is otherwise known as “flower writing”. Flowers had long been associated with fertility and many European religious scholars believed flowers were put on earth to please human beings. European scientists also believed flowers were the result of fertility among plants and argued human beings were attracted to plants because they symbolized fertility.
Each flower was associated with a different meaning. Red roses for example signified everlasting love while pink flowers represented friendship. Through flower writing, people were able to have entire conversations with their special someone without having to be too direct or forward with their emotions.
Around 1910, technological advancements with the printing press allowed the mass production of greeting cards. People began sending cards and flowers to one another on the long, celebrated romantic holiday of Valentine’s Day.
Today we still honor the traditions of the past by remembering to tell our special someone how much we care for them on February 14th. What type of message will you be sending with your selected flower on Valentine’s Day? For a complete guide of flowers and their meanings visit: http://aboutflowers.com/flower-a-plant-information-and-photos/meanings-of-flowers.html.