Ancient Tradition or Marketing Ploy?
- by Martha Whitney Butler
From love letters to flowers, we express our love to our partners in a variety of ways, and we've been doing it for centuries! Here are a few of those traditional gifts and a little bit of history behind them:
Valentine's Day Cards - We've traced the liturgical origins of Valentine's Day to Saint Valentine, who was reportedly executed for performing illegal marriages on the battlefield. These were illegal because Roman Emperor Claudius II found committed relationships to be distracting to his military campaigns. As St. Valentine sat in jail awaiting execution, he restored sight to the jailer's blind daughter and left her a handwritten note signed, "From your Valentine."
Flowers - We have Venus herself to thank for this gift! Being the goddess of love, she favored the rose as her flower - hence our tradition of giving roses on this day. Her worshippers left an abundance of flowers at her shrines hoping to win her good blessings in regards to their love lives.
In the 1700s, Charles the II of Sweden introduced the poetical Persian "language of flowers" to Europe, assigning official meanings to different flowers. Ladies of this era clung to their flower encyclopedias, assessing each bud of their bouquet. This way, the sender could have a wordless conversation with the recipient by sending them different flowers, each with its own meaning and symbol.
So if you are an anti-Valentine's Day grump who thinks the holiday was created by greeting card companies and greedy florists, put a flower in your hair and eat some chocolate! This holiday has been around for a long time and is one of the loveliest days of the year. Use it as an opportunity to show some love to your local florists, chocolatiers, and artists!