An estimated 2 billion dollars are spent on flowers every year for valentine’s day. It’s a big business but where did the idea come from? The history of Valentines day is murky and has ties in both pagan and christian history. The pagan observance of Lupercalia was a festival held in mid February to celebrate purity and fertility with animal sacrifice and a singles lottery. Women’s names would be drawn out of a large urn by men and the newly formed couples would be paired together for one year.
The Christian side of Valentines Day is shrouded in mystery. There are three patron saints with the name of Valentine and numerous stories tell tales of love and death. One of the more popular legends is a story of a man who was jailed by the Romans for helping Christians escape jails where they were regularly beaten and tortured. While in prison he met and fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. Before his death he sent a letter to the daughter and signed his name, ‘from your Valentine.’ During the 5th century, in an attempt to stem pagan festivals, Pope Gelasius declared February 15 as Valentines Day.
Flowers have a long history of symbolizing fertility, love and romance, so it is no surprise they are one of the more popular gifts to give for Valentine’s Day. During the 19th century secret messages could be sent to another person simply by sending them flowers. Floriography is the language of flowers and can be used to express a wide range of sentiments. Red Roses symbolize romantic love while pink Roses only indicate affection. Yellow Mums are for lost love and Asters are for patience. Floral Dictionaries were prevalent during the 1800’s and the tradition has carried its way into our modern times.