Valentine's Day Love Traditions Romance and the Language of Flowers
By John Shepler
Je t'aime, Moi oiy neya, Ich liebe Dich, Ti amo, Saya cinta
padamu, Te quiero, Seni seviyo*rum, Eg elskar deg, Kimi o ai
shiteru, Mai tumase pyar karata hun, Mahal Kita. It's the language
of love around the world. French, Cantonese, German, Italian,
Indonesian, Spanish, Turkish, Norwegian, Japanese, Hindi, Tagalog,
the native language of the Philippines, or, in English, "I
Is February the month of love? Well, it certainly is if you
count the chocolates, the cards, the roses and the special dinners
all centered around one day, Valentine's Day, February 14. The
romantic inside us finds new energy in the midst of winter's
doldrums. Poets take pen to paper (or nowadays keyboard to email)
and sweet words flow in streams of eloquence. Like spring tulips
blooming above a blanket of late snow, the colors of St. Valentine's
Day are red and white.
We owe our valentine
traditions to Saint Valentine, a priest in Rome during the rein
of Emperor Claudius II in the third century. Claudius was also
known as Claudius the Cruel, for reasons you'll soon see.
It seems that Claudius was frustrated in his efforts to expand
the army of Rome because nobody wanted to volunteer. The men
of the 60's, the 260's that is, had an philosophy of "make
love, not war." Too few wanted to leave their wives and
families to embark on military expeditions for Claudius, where
they would be gone for months or years and may never come back.
Finally, Claudius ran out of patience and used his powers as
emperor to ban engagements and marriages in Rome. He fiendishly
reasoned that if the men couldn't get married it would be easier
to lure them into the service.
Young people were outraged and continued to get married in
secret, providing they could find a willing priest. Valentine
was one of a few who supported them. He met with couples in private
candlelit rooms where they would exchange vows in hushed tones,
always fearful of discovery. Finally, it happened. Valentine
was found out and hauled before the Prefect of Rome who condemned
him to death. As he awaited execution, his admirers would come
to the jail with flowers and notes of support. One of his most
ardent supporters turned out to be the daughter of the prison
guard, who would talk with Valentine for hours and try to keep
his spirits up. The day he was to die, February 14, 269 AD, Valentine
wrote her a note of thanks for her friendship and loyalty and
signed it, "Love from your Valentine."
Ironically, Claudius had executed Valentine on the holiday
that honored Juno, the Roman goddess of women and marriage. The
festival of Lupercalia followed, where boys drew the names of
girls from a jar and paired up for the festivities. In the year
269, the name Valentine would be forever linked to this romantic
time. In 496, Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honor him
as Saint Valentine and it has been St. Valentine's Day ever since.
Other traditions developed over the centuries. In the Middle
Ages, both men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their
valentines would be. They would wear the names on their sleeves
for a week. Now, to wear your heart on your sleeve means others
can easily see your feelings.
In the 1600's, a language of flowers developed in Constantinople
and in the poetry of Persia. Charles II introduced the Persian
poetry to Europe, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu brought the flower
language from Turkey to England in 1716. It spread to France
and became a handbook of 800 floral messages known as the Book
Le Langage des Fleurs. Lovers exchanged messages as they gave
each other selected flowers or bouquets. A full red rose meant
beauty. Red and white mean unity. Crocus said "abuse not",
while a white rosebud warns that one is too young for love. Yellow
roses were for jealousy, yellow iris for passion, filbert for
reconciliation and ivy for marriage.
The message would grow in complexity with combinations. A
full rose placed over two buds meant secrecy. Remove the thorns
from a rosebud and you say "I fear no longer." Remove
the leaves also and your message becomes "There is nothing
to hope or fear." Want to say "Your unconscious sweetness
has fascinated me"? Then offer a Lily of the Valley and
Roses have endured as the traditional flower of Valentine's
Day, and perhaps we also owe that to the Romans. In legend, a
woman, Rodanthe, was pursued by many suitors who finally became
so impassioned they broke down the doors of her house. This enraged
the goddess Diana, who turned the woman into a flower and her
suitors each into a thorn. Perhaps that's where we also get the
expression "a thorny situation."
I wish you the best of luck and love on this Valentine's Day.
If you'd like to enhance your message of affection to that special
one, perhaps one of these expressions of I love you will sound
just right. Wo ai ni, Obicham te, I mog di narrisch gern, Ek
het jou liefe, Ti tengu cara, Tangsinul sarang ha yo, Ja cie
kocham, Te iu besc Ich libe dich, or Mena Tanda Wena.
Love You" - How to say those three little words in languages
from around the world.
Victorian Language of Flowers - Some of the hundreds of floral signs
that originated in the Middle East in the 1600s. Each flower
has a meaning and each combination expands the range of your