Happy Valentine, darling

Choose your rose colour with care if moving away from the traditional red or the wrong message...
Choose your rose colour with care if moving away from the traditional red or the wrong message may be sent.PHOTOS: GILLIAN VINE
Gillian Vine looks at a Valentine’s Day tradition.

Roses have been cultivated for 5000 years and from early times have been associated with romance.

Red roses, in bud or fully open, are the traditional way of saying, ‘‘I love you,’’ on February...
Red roses, in bud or fully open, are the traditional way of saying, ‘‘I love you,’’ on February 14.
Now no date is more significant than February 14, Valentine's Day, when sending a red rose - or a bunch of them - is a sign of affection.

Confusingly, I'm told a red rose is the official flower of the British Labour Party: perhaps it is trying to get across a message of loving the masses?

Back to the romantic, Robbie Burns is often credited for sparking the notion of sending red roses, for there can be few lines better known than ``My luve is like a red, red rose''. It was published in 1794, just two years before the poet died, aged just 37.

But Burns was just picking up on a much older tradition, for as noted, roses were the flower of romance for centuries before he

Pink roses denote grace and gentleness.
Pink roses denote grace and gentleness.
penned the famous lines.

For instance, in the Old Testament Book of Solomon, written prior to the 3rd century BC, a bride says, ``I am the rose of Sharon.''

The Romans loved roses, the flowers of Bacchus, god of wine and joy, of Cupid and of Venus, so it is easy to see how they became symbols of romance.

So how did Valentine, a Catholic priest, get in on the act? He was a bishop during the time of the Roman Emperor Claudius the Goth, who outlawed marriage as he felt young men would refuse to go off to fight to maintain his empire if they had wives.

For the passionate, giving an orange rose hints at steamy stuff in store.
For the passionate, giving an orange rose hints at steamy stuff in store.
Valentine started marrying couples in secret and word got back to Claudius, who condemned the bishop to death. The prisoner supposedly began exchanging notes with the daughter of his jailer and his last message before he was beheaded in AD 270 ended, ``From your Valentine''.

Leaving aside the improbability of a Roman jailer or his daughter being able to read and write, it is claimed that from this last note arose the idea of sending love messages on St Valentine's feast day.

Sending decorated cards came much later but by the 16th century, they were quite common among those who could read and write. However, it was the introduction of the Penny Post in England in 1840 that really put Valentine's cards within the reach of ordinary people. The practice took off throughout the Western world and Americans reportedly send 1billion cards annually.

Yellow roses have so many meanings that sending one is a minefield.
Yellow roses have so many meanings that sending one is a minefield.
Given that the combined population of the United States and Canada is less than 400 million, it's clear some chaps hedge their bets by posting cards to numerous women. NZ Post may be missing a great marketing opportunity here.

Although chocolates have become a popular gift, there is nothing like a red rose and for those who want to go the whole hog and buy a potted bush, the ideal is one of the high-scent varieties like Munstead Wood or the old Etoile de Hollande.

If florists' offerings have more appeal, here are a couple of tips: If the shop has no red roses, try red carnations, as they also say, ``I love you'', while pink flowers, suggesting gentle or growing affection, could be equally appropriate as pink has always been the colour of romance. In the language of flowers so loved by the Victorians, pink roses denote grace, gentleness and

If roses are sold out, carnations are good alternatives.
If roses are sold out, carnations are good alternatives.
happiness; white roses mean ``You're heavenly'', while orange ones indicate passionate desire and lavender signifies enchantment or love at first sight. Skip yellow, as it is a minefield with a range of meanings from friendship to unfaithfulness.

And if the florists have run out of roses, carnations in pink or red make good substitutes.

Finally, if you get it completely wrong and miss celebrating St Valentine on February 14, the Catholic Church has several other saints of that name, so there could be an opportunity to break out the red roses on November 3, feast day of Valentine of Viterbo.

 

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Waldenses Day

Rose of Cimarron

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