Where did our tradtions begin and what are the ideal Valentine's flowers?
We are all well aware of Valentine’s Day, it has become one of the biggest ‘holidays’ in the world, and we are bombarded with marketing and advertisements encouraging us to buy gifts to let ‘that special someone’ know exactly how we feel, to express our love, to take a chance and let the object of our unrequited affection know how we feel, and to do this by buying them gifts. Traditionally, at least in the UK, that means buying flowers, usually red Roses and it is a great day, yet a stressful time, for florists up and down the country. Questions remain though, questions like how did these traditions begin?, why do they persist?, are Valentine’s Day traditions the same across the world?, and which flowers should I buy!? As promoters of local florists and fresh, hand tied flowers, BloomLocal has a bit of a vested interest in this last question and naturally have a selection of beautiful Valentine’s flowers that we feel will buck the traditional trend of buying only red Roses for your love this year, but before we do show our choice (it's British Tulips) we feel it is important to get to the truth of the first few questions and uncover the murky, and perhaps surprising origins of Valentine’s Day celebrations.
Lupercalia, the pretty harsh beginnings of Valentine’s Day
Source: The Gypsy Thread
Like most things that started such a long time ago, there is a lot of conjecture, confusion and a fair amount of argument about the origins of St. Valentine’s Day. One thing that is not in dispute, however, is that its beginnings lie with the Romans. Before it was converted to Christianity, Roman society was Pagan and had a pantheon of Gods who were responsible for all manner of things. One of these Gods was Faunus, the God of agriculture and each year from 12-15th of February was the festival Lupercalia. This was essentially concerned with fertility, of the soil and of the female population. The men of the city would sacrifice a goat and a dog, strip the hides from the animals and dip them in the sacrificial blood (it’s a pretty grim start to what has become an international celebration of love to be honest but they had their reasons). These strips of hide were then slapped on fields to increase crops. Not to be left out, and to ensure their own fertility for the coming year, the women of the city actually lined the streets of Rome and wait to be hit with these bloody strips according to Noel Lenski, a professor of Classics and History at Yale. The festivities would last for days, with plenty of wine and food consumed, and there was even a lottery where single lady’s names were put in a large urn and eligible bachelors would draw names from the urn, then they were coupled for the duration of the festival, and perhaps longer if the match was good enough. During the celebrations the participants “were drunk. They were naked.” We agree that so far, it doesn’t sound particularly romantic and there has been no mention of St. Valentine yet, but don’t worry here it comes.
That’s all well and good, but who was St. Valentine?
Lupercalia survived the initial conversion of Romans to Christianity, but in the fifth century it was officially banned by Pope Gelasius I, who replaced it with St. Valentine’s Day. That may be so, but we are still no wiser as to his identity. Unfortunately, neither are historians, although have narrowed it down to three people (although two of them may have been the same person), all of whom were martyred. Two (although these are the ones who may actually be one person, history can get very confusing!) were killed by Claudius II in the third century, and the other Valentine helped Christians escape from the beatings and torture they received in Roman prisons. He, in turn, was imprisoned and fell in love with the daughter of his jailor and sent her a note, signing of with an epithet that is used to this day ‘from your Valentine’. Whatever the truth is, it is clear that each of these Valentines were lionised as heroic, sympathetic and romantic heroes, and by the Middle Ages had become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Ok, but when did our modern traditions begin?
As St. Valentine became ever more popular his legend was romanticised further by artists like Chaucer and Shakespeare, which led to his legend becoming even more popular. As a result, hand-made Valentine’s Day cards became fashionable across Europe from the 1500s onwards, with commercial cards appearing in the late 1700s, and after making its way to the new world the first commercially produced cards in the USA appeared in the 1800s. In keeping with both its Roman history, and with societies desire to present a more gentle and romantic idea of the past, these cards often depicted Cupid, the Roman God of love, and hearts which is where feelings were believed to begin. As mid-February was thought to be the start of the avian mating season, birds also became associated with Valentine’s Day. Gifts of candy and flowers, especially red roses which are a symbol of beauty and love, soon became part of Valentine’s tradition. What started as a fertility festival has become big business, with Brits spending 261 million on flowers alone in 2021. Although as you can see from the table, lockdown may have resulted in less spending last year!
Up to 40 million Brits (76%) will be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year.
This is a significant drop from the 41.4 million who embraced the day of love in 2020.
Of those who will celebrate Valentine’s Day, the total spend has dropped to £926 million (£23 per person), from last year’s £1.45 billion (£35 per person).
3 in 10 people (30%) who do not live with their partners plan to break lockdown rules and meet their partners inside.
24% of Brits will not be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year.
Analysis conducted by finder.com
What are some Valentine's traditions across the world?
Naturally, each country has its own Valentine’s traditions, although most are a variation on the same themes, flowers, cards, chocolates and gifts. As previously mentioned, this is big business and an entire industry has sprung up around St. Valentine’s Day. Flowers are only one part of this business, but a very important part, and are more often than not the cornerstone of Valentine’s gifts, which are then supplemented by going for meals, romantic breaks, and jewellery. Here are a few countries where things are done a bit differently and whilst they also celebrate the traditional Valentine’s Day, they also have their own lover’s days.
1. Argentina - The ‘week of sweetness’ is in July, and lovers exchange kisses and chocolates to celebrate.
2. Brazil - Lovers celebrate ‘dia dos namorados’ on June 12th, which is basically the same as ours, just on a different day.
3. Japan - This is celebration has two days, one for women and one for men. On Feb. 14th women buy gifts and chocolates for the men in their lives, but the men cannot return the favour until March 14th which is known as ‘white day’.
4. Romania - Celebrated on Feb 24th, to coincide with the start of spring, men and women go to the forest and pick colourful flowers and some even wash their faces with snow for good luck!
5. South Korea - Loving couples here celebrate the day of love on the 14th of each month with each month having a different ‘theme’ such as kisses, hugs and roses to name a few.
6. South West China - Here they celebrate the ‘Sister’s Meal’ festival on March 15th, and the women wear silver dresses and cook a variety of dishes of coloured rice and offer them on silk to men walking the roads.
7. Wales - Since the 16th century the Welsh have celebrated the day of San Dwynwen on January 25th when lovers exchange handcrafted wooden spoons.
Which Valentine’s flowers should I buy?
Traditions are all well and good, but as we have seen not only are they shrouded in mystery, and different for everyone, there is nothing that says you need to be traditional. We think a bouquet of hand tied flowers is the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day, we are florists after all. However, that doesn’t mean that your Valentine’s flowers have to be traditional. Being original is an excellent way to show just how much you care as it shows you have made the extra effort. So BloomLocal are working with British growers to source tulips that are not only beautiful and sustainable, they also signify perfect love, making them the perfect Valentine’s bouquet. The fact is that this year especially there are a number of reasons, from rising fuel prices to increased red tape and tariffs on imports and exports, that make it difficult and expensive to find those traditional red rose. So, it has become apparent that finding a less traditional bouquet of hand tied Valentine’s flowers is the way forward, and our local florsists offer same day flower delivery anywhere in the UK