Valentine’s Day derives from Saint Valentine who was one of two men preaching religion in Rome in the third century. One of these two was martyred on February 14th 269, thus giving us the date for his eponymous day.
Valentine’s Day became associated with romantic love in the 14th and 15th centuries when notions of courtly love flourished, apparently by association with the “lovebirds” of early spring.
The flowers connection to Valentine’s Day dates back to the 19th century when Victorians used floral bouquets to deliver a message to love interests. This system is called “floriography” and officially solidified the red rose’s romantic status, says Kate Greenway, author of The Language of Flowers.
It is believed the rose comes from Greek mythology. Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, is said to have created the first red rose when her lover, Adonis, died. The story goes that a red rose grew where Aphrodite’s tears fell on the ground.
The first commercial valentine cards were printed in the mid-1800s. The cards commonly depict Cupid, the Roman god of love, along with hearts, traditionally the seat of emotion. Because it was thought that the avian mating season begins in mid-February birds also became a symbol of the day.
Traditional gifts include candy and red roses a symbol of beauty and love.