With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we thought it would be a good time to take a quick look at why some flower choices are considered romantic. Red roses are often picked as gifts for loved ones at this time but not many people know why.
There are about 400,000 different types of rose and their popularity and our fascination with them stretches back to ancient times.
Rose is an Ancient Anagram
According to Greek mythology, the rose is an anagram of Eros, the god of love who was the son of Aphrodite and Ares. Eros is mentioned in many works of the time, not least as someone who could ‘smite maiden’s breasts with unknown heat’.
Another slightly different story has Aphrodite running through a white rose bush to warn her lover that he was in mortal danger. The thorns cut into her flesh so deeply that her blood turned the rose petals red, forever marking the rose as a symbol of devotion.
Romans and the Rose Petal
If you’ve ever wondered where the sprinkling of rose petals in a room became a romantic thing, it was down to the Romans. During this period, roses were widely used as confetti during weddings – freshly wed couples would also wear a crown of roses as they approached the nuptial chamber where the bed was awash with petals.
The Rise of the English Rose
During the 15th century, roses became particularly associated with two royal houses here in Britain. The War of the Roses, one signified by a white rose, the other a red, is still evident today during cricket matches between Yorkshire and Lancashire.
In the 15th century, the war took a tumultuous and final turn when the red rose of Henry Tudor defeated the white rose of Richard III.
A century later, the rose became a favourite of William Shakespeare and often appeared as a metaphor in his work. It led also to the most memorable line in Romeo and Juliet: “A rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”.
The rose was once a sign of virginity and it’s no surprise that Elizabeth I took it as her emblem. Later, it became a staple of numerous poems of the time. Scottish poet Robert Burns penned the ode A Red, Red Rose in 1794. From this the rose has become popular around the world including New Zealand!
Roses and Valentine’s Day
The tradition of sending a loved one a red rose for Valentine’s Day has quite a few different origin stories associated with it. Some say it came from the influential wife of the ambassador to Turkey, Lady Montagu who wrote about the Turkish love of giving certain blooms significant meaning.
A more practical reason for roses being chosen for Valentine’s Day is that they are quite hardy and can be transported without becoming wilted or damaged. In the end, we associate the deep red of Valentine flowers with passion and love and that has endured for more than a century.
The event itself may have become more commercialised over the years, so much so that we might have forgotten its true meaning, but a single rose is a simple and effective way to profess your feelings to a loved one at any time.