Long-stemmed red roses are practically synonymous with Valentine’s Day. How did this association come to be?
The tradition of giving Valentine’s Day flowers dates back to the late 17th century, during the reign of King Charles II of Sweden. During a trip to Persia, King Charles II was exposed to a new art—the language of flowers. This expressionist art focused on one’s ability to communicate using flowers without uttering any words at all. (Can you guess what different flowers mean?) The fad boomed throughout Europe, with lists of flowers and their meanings widely distributed.
In the language of flowers, giving someone a yellow carnation meant they’d disappointed you, and giving someone a purple hyacinth meant you were sorry and begging to be forgiven. The red rose, as you may have guessed, translated to deep love.
The rose took on this meaning because of its affiliation with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In Greek mythology, it is said that rose bushes grew from the ground through Aphrodite’s tears and the blood of her lover, Adonis. The Romans, who turned Aphrodite into their goddess Venus, kept the rose as her symbol of love and beauty. So when Valentine’s Day became the mainstream holiday we know today, the rose was an obvious choice for the most fitting gift.
In 2016 alone, Americans spent $1.9 billion dollars on flowers, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF)! It may sound astonishing, but an estimated 198 million roses were produced last year just for the purposes of gifting on Valentine’s Day.
In the NRF’s 2016 Valentine’s Day spending survey, consumers spend a whopping $146.84 on roses, candy, and other gifts on average—and this number increases each year. The cost of roses makes up a large part of that total, as the average bouquet of a dozen red roses will run you about $42.
Red roses are in such high demand on February 14th that it could be tough to get your hands on them. So you could start planning ahead, or you could buck tradition this Valentine’s Day, and go with one of these other rose color meanings or one of these equally romantic floral alternatives.