When you show your love for someone on St Valentine's Day, it is usually done with flowers. So why is a bouquet of 12 red roses perceived to be the perfect way to display your romantic affection?
Whether you believe that roses are named after Eros, the god of love or that they are red due to the blood shed by Aphrodite when her lover Adonis was killed, they are intimately linked to St Valentine's Day.
But did you know that roses are colour coded, with meanings that you might not be aware of?
While red traditionally symbolizes romance, if you only want to be friends with someone a yellow bloom is more appropriate.
Gratitude is expressed by pink, and white roses predictably signify innocence and purity.
The ones to look out for are lilac – love at first sight – and the racy orange indicating desire, while there's nothing more passionate than yellow and orange combined.
It seems that it's not only straight roads, modern sanitation and underfloor heating that we have to thank the Romans for. St Valentine's Day is said to derive from 'Lupercalia', one of those fertility festivals that they were particularly fond of, which ran from 13 – 15 February.
Luckily for us we now give roses and chocolates to mark the occasion rather than sacrificing goats and dogs, and although it can get quite lively on a Saturday night, local youths no longer run naked up the High Street, whipping the local lovelies.
Two Christian martyrs are supposed to have died on 14 February, Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome. The latter initiated a romantic tradition based on love and affection, or as some would see it an exercise in multi-million pound commercial exploitation, by falling in love with his jailer's daughter and sending her a note signed 'From Your Valentine'
Around 496, the Pope backed a winner by transforming the pagan festival into a Christian one when he declared it St Valentine's Day. Clearly the link between feast day and romance was well established when a 'High Court of Love' was established in France in the 15th century specifically to deal with marriages, infidelity and similar affairs of the heart.
Charles, the Duke of Orleans, sends the first known Valentine's card in 1415 and by the 19 th century Valentine cards were being mass produced when shy young men could purchase books containing suggestions as to how they should coyly phrase their affection.
By 2010 about a billion cards were being sent. Curiously enough women are supposed to send many more than men, and perhaps surprisingly both prefer humour to romance. Although males like a risque card, females are far less receptive to sexual innuendo and their flagrant rather than fragrant suggestions.
Valentine's Day is not only boom time for card manufacturers but florists reckon that up to one third of their annual turnover relates to men suddenly having the annual urge to buy their loved one(s) a bouquet.
Forget about teddy bears and chocolates, roses, particularly red ones, are still the bloom of choice to show your romantic commitment. The majority are flown into Holland from all over the world and then trucked in temperature controlled lorries in their millions to England.
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Pet owners also don't want their pooches to miss out on the love fest with many of them recognizing their undying love for their pets in the shape of a romantic dog biscuit or other appropriate canine gift.
Other traditions that seem to have died out, or may just have survived in some far off ex-colonial outpost for anthropologists to discover, include 'maids and bachelors writing their names on rolled up pieces of paper, they are then drawn and the valentine buys his mistress a gift'. Another had women pinning bay leaves on their pillow on the evening preceding Valentine's Day in order to see a prospective husband in their dreams. If it was Brad Pitt it would be in your dreams.
Who knows what effect social and new media will have on these centuries old romantic rites and traditions. Flowers and chocolate have been a fail safe way to a girl's heart for so long that it's difficult to imagine impersonal apps taking over. But men have never understood the fairer sex.
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