It has been said that there is a thin line between love and hate. Those of us swept up in the affairs of the heart are all too familiar with this concept, not only from the perspective of how tenuous it is to balance on this particular tightrope, but also in light of the complications that Valentine’s Day can add to the terrain. For some, the opportunity to express romantic inclinations regardless of age (remember back in the day when you used to count up all the little handheld Valentines you received in class?) or the tokens of affection involved (do we ever truly outgrow our fascination with the numerous sayings on a candy heart?) is one we embrace. Other more cynical types decry the occasion as more commercial than Cupid, where the delicate beginnings of a budding romance can be dashed on the rocks as we are forced to send the wrong signals too soon.
Truth is, while most of us have a keen awareness of the occasion and it’s romantic themes, we know little about Valentine’s Day’s origins and history. Hence, an opportunity to play one of our favorite games here at the old Exotic Flowers’ blog, “Fact or Fiction” (although given the nature of the holiday, perhaps “Truth or Dare” might have been more appropriate).
1) Valentine’s Day was an invention of the Hallmark Greeting Card Company to push love-themed paraphernalia for profit. Fiction. First, the earliest mechanically produced Valentines date back to the early 1800’s, prior to Hallmark’s existence. Second, the roots of the holiday are a subject of much debate. The general consensus is that it began as the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a celebration of fertility or the marriage of Roman gods Juno and Hera (depending on who you ask) dating back to the Middle Ages. The “Valentine” aspect was introduced when the Catholic church attempted to de-paganize the holiday by associating a catholic martyr named Valentine with it to create a feast day in his honor, bringing us to Fact or Fiction #2:
2) Valentine’s Day is a tribute to St. Valentine. Fact. Well, sort of. Little is known about the martyr Valentine, and there appears to be more than one in Catholic canon. There are stories of a Valentine who defied the Roman Emperor Claudius’ edict that men not marry (making military recruitment easier) by performing the illegal ceremony for young lovers, an activity he was ultimately executed for. A Valentine dating back to 200 AD is also purported to have helped free prisoners from jail, restored sight to his jailer’s daughter prior to being executed once he was caught helping others escape, and credited with possibly being the first to use the phrase “From your Valentine” in a note written to a female prisoner he had fallen in love with prior to his execution. There is no definitive historical evidence for any of these actions or the Valentines who performed them, hence the removal of the holiday’s status as a feast day from the calendar by the Catholic Church back in 1969 (wasn’t that the Summer of Love? Ironic, huh?).
3) More roses are sold than any other flower on Valentine’s Day. Fiction. I would have guessed red roses trump every other flora on this holiday, but according to History.com, mixed flowers are the number one choice, and according to noted authority and Exotic Flowers in Boston luminary Rick Canale, the number of red roses sold on Valentine’s day seems to decline every year.
4) Valentine’s day is an American holiday. Fiction. The roots of the holiday began in ancient Rome, as we discussed earlier, and iterations of it are observed all over the world, from Asia, India, Europe, and the Middle East, all the way to South America. Some countries have banned the holiday for its Western or “pagan” roots, and some use it to honor friendship or the beginnings of Spring. My favorite connection to the holiday is in South Korea, where on April 14th (Black Day), those who did not receive gifts from secret loves on Valentine’s Day eat black noodles to mourn the absence of love from their solitary existence. I also enjoyed learning about Jack Valentine, a mystical character who was legendary in Norfolk County, England for leaving treats and gifts for children on the holiday. Unfortunately, his presence and practices spooked the children of the region so badly that parents stopped propagating his lore.
Well, once again, Exotic Flowers blog has broadened your mind and helped you take your first steps into a much larger world. Now why don’t you take that newfound wisdom and share it with someone you love, along with one of the many tokens of affection that the Cupid consultants here at Exotic Flowers in Boston offer?
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