Why do we give red roses on Valentine's Day?Why do we give red roses on Valentine's Day?

This article was originally published on February 14, 2022.

For centuries, the red rose has been a symbol of love, passion and romance. The delicate yet prickly flower has an ornate history when it comes to its association with deep intimacy—especially on Valentine’s Day. But it is also an emblem of secrecy. Originating from ancient mythology and Roman conquest to secret marriages and discreet messages, the symbol of the rose has come a long way to become a staple of the Valentine bouquet.

A rose by any other name…

Fossils show that the rose is an extremely ancient flower, possibly originating in Central Asia tens of millions of years ago. But for a more poetic version of its origins, turn to one of several ancient stories that tell how roses came to be associated with love. Some of the most famous come from Greek mythology.

According to the Greek poet Anacreon, the white rose first appeared during the birth of Aphrodite, the goddess of love; and her blood later turned the roses red. The goddess discovered a plot against her lover Adonis, who was about to be torn apart by a boar during a hunt. A cut on her leg on some rose thorns, when she rushed to warn him, spots of blood spattered the white petals and stained them crimson. (Unfortunately, she reached Adonis too late and he died from a wound in his leg.)

Another legend says that Aphrodite’s son Eros, after whom she named the flowers by rearranging just one letter of his name later I gave a rose to Harpocrates, the god of silenceto bribe his secret for the imprudence of Aphrodite.

Under Rose: Why do we give red roses on Valentine’s Day?

While the rose has always remained a symbol of love, the story of Eros bribing Harpocrates to keep quiet about Aphrodite’s affairs also associates it with secrecy. Actually the myth became so popular in Ancient Rome that homeowners painted roses on their ceilings as an indicator that “what is said in this house, stays in this house.” Guests were expected to exercise discretion in all that was said sub rosa, Latin for “under the rose”..”

As Christianity began to spread, Bible stories included roses. Mother of God, a symbol of love and purity, it is said to be crowned with roses without thorns, because it is without sin. And the Catholic Church often decorates confessionals with roses as a sign of confidentiality during confession.

This is from a Christian martyr, St. Valentine, that we’re getting the modernized version of Valentine’s Day. Legend has it that the Roman priest objected Emperor Claudius II and married young couples in secret Christian weddings so that the men could leave the army. Saint Valentine was sentenced to death, but before he died, he wrote a note to the jailer’s daughter that read: “From your Valentine.” Although there are several historical references to Valentine’s Day, the idea of ​​Valentine’s Day as the celebration of love has been going on since the 14th century.

A Dozen Roses: The Meaning of Red Roses on Valentine’s Day

As the celebration of Valentine’s Day has moved away from its religious roots, roses are still used as a form of secret language. During the Victorian era, flowers took on a different look meanings and messages. The color of roses also had meaning – and these symbols are still valid today. Red roses are a symbol of love and passion. Yellow roses symbolize friendship. Orange roses symbolize desire. And pink roses symbolize gratitude.

Read more: For the Victorians, flower arrangements were often secret messages

But color isn’t the only thing that matters when giving or receiving roses. A typical bouquet of roses contains a dozen stems because they symbolize the 12 months of a full year and the 12 signs of the zodiac. Count 12 is a symbol of perfection and completion. In other words, if you’re preparing for the perfect Valentine this year, don’t reach for the smaller arrangement from the floral section of your supermarket.

From Aphrodite and her lost love to the Victorian language of flowers, the red rose continues to be a symbol of passion and deep intimacy – and the reason why red roses for Valentine’s Day have become an unequivocal choice. It shows that love can be beautiful and painful, like the red rose and its thorns, but it can also stand the test of time.

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