The tradition of giving flowers on Valentine’s Day is based on the very legend that gave rise to the holiday.
It is said that back in the days of the Roman Emperor Claudius II, a priest named Valentine-the man who was eventually to be canonized as Saint Valentine-while awaiting execution for protecting persecuted Christians and performing marriages not recognized by the state, befriended the jailer and the jailer’s blind daughter, sending a card and a single red rose to the daughter just before his death. Giving Valentine’s Day cards and flowers, then, is a way of recreating and honoring the actions of Saint Valentine.
Flowers have long been appreciated for their beauty, but in some cultures people can be said to have communicated with flowers. Different types of flowers were assigned different meanings. (There was no formal authority that designated what flowers were to mean; it was more a matter of imprecise and changing meanings arising out of convention.)
Such florography, or floral symbolica, has been practiced in such disparate lands and times as ancient China, India, Egypt, Assyria, Persia, and Turkey, as well as in Victorian England, where several special dictionaries were published to provide all the flower meanings.
Regardless of whether legend is correct that the rose was the first ever flower given for Valentine’s Day, roses certainly are number one in popularity today, especially red and pink roses.
Which flowers to choose for Valentine’s Day is of course a matter of personal preference. One needn’t go with roses just because they’re popular. Indeed, you may be able to get a very good deal on perfectly lovely flowers of other varieties that happen not to be as much in demand for this particular holiday.
You may, if you wish, base your choice in part on the conventional meanings of the various flowers:
* Roses, as most people would surmise, convey a message of love. In addition, red roses symbolize perfection and beauty; pink roses symbolize elegance, grace, and joy; orange roses symbolize passion and desire; yellow roses symbolize happiness and warmth; lavender roses symbolize the enchantment of a new love, and white roses symbolize purity and innocence, as well as serving as an appropriate flower for Valentine’s Day weddings.
* Another popular Valentine’s Day flower is the carnation. Carnations symbolize love, distinction and fascination.
* Tulips symbolize perfect love. Tulips are not so much for the initial infatuation, but for when you’re sure you’ve found “the one.”
* Orchids symbolize a delicate, rare beauty. They can also symbolize wealth, and of course love, which all the flowers represent in one way or another.
* Peruvian lilies symbolize devotion and friendship, and are good for when you are not confident about declaring a full-fledged romantic love.
* Sunflowers symbolize, not surprisingly, the sun, and thereby warmth and caring.
If you do decide to go with one of these varieties of flowers due to its conventional meaning, be sure to reference that meaning in a card or when presenting the flowers to your Valentine. There’s not much point in choosing a certain message if that message is not received.
But really the best flowers to give for Valentine’s Day are whichever the recipient will like best, and will accept as a beautiful token of your love.