Harnett County,
North Carolina

Cooperative Extension 

Why are roses given on Valentines Day?

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Question Why are roses given on Valentines Day?

Answer Patron saints are chosen as special protectors or guardians over areas of our life. These areas can include things important to us like safety during travel, weather, love, etc…. While popes have named patron saints, patrons can be chosen by other individuals or groups as well. Patron saints are often chosen today because an interest, talent, or event in their lives has a deep or profound meaning in ours.

Valentines Day is named after Saint Valentine. There may have been more than one Valentine or Valentinus (all were martyred). However, the most common legend says that a priest named Valentine was sent to prison during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius (around 270 AD). While in prison he tried to convert Claudius to Christianity. The penalty, of course, was execution. While waiting to be killed, he is said to have restored the sight of the jailer’s blind daughter (they may have fallen in love as well). The night before his execution he wrote her a farewell note and signed it “From your Valentine.” These famous words are central to the celebration of our modern Valentines Day.

The first painting of St. Valentine appeared in 1493 AD in an illustrated book called The Nuremberg Chronicle. The painting has roses around the feet of St. Valentine. Roses have been associated with Valentines Day ever since.

Even though St. Valentine was one of the most popular patron saints during the Middle Ages, it is unclear why February 14th is celebrated as Valentines Day. One legend says this was the date that Valentine was executed. Another legend says this is when birds chose their mates in England, making it the most appropriate date for a lover’s day. There is also a theory that the Catholic Church chose this date to deemphasize or to 'christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. Pope Gelasius declared February 14th St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. It is ironic that Cupid, the child-like, winged deity associated with modern Valentines Day, is the son of Venus the Roman Goddess of Love.

The original Valentine note (or card) may have been written by a man, but nowadays women buy approximately 85% of the 1 billion Valentine cards purchased each year. It is possible that men buy the more expensive roses because they forgot to get a Valentine card (the penalty, of course, is execution).

Before sending roses for Valentines Day, check out the meaning of rose colors at http://honeymoons.about.com/cs/valentinesday/a/Valentine_Roses.htm If you do not have internet access, call us at 910-893-7533 or email me at gpierce@harnett.org

There are actually three patron saints of gardening – St. Adelard, St. Christopher and St. Fiacre. Saint Fiacre also doubles as the patron saint of taxi drivers. Saint Christopher doubles as the patron saint of pestilence. Gardening may be infectious, but I don’t know how it is related to pestilence or cab drivers.

Gary L. Pierce

Horticulture Extension Agent

Harnett County

 
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