Although the rose did not play a specific role in the legend of Saint Valentine, it is the traditional flower of Valentine’s Day. It quite possibly came from Roman traditions, like the extravagant use during the Roman Empire as part of celebrations and festivities. One legendary rumor was that Nero decorated a banquet hall with over one million rose blossoms for a celebration.
There are almost as many legends and stories about the origin of the rose as there are petals on the flower. Each claims to be the one true version. The rose was so popular in Roman and Greek mythology that there are many conflicting stories about which god or goddess created the flower and why. Each vies for the special honor. Apollo, Venus, Diana, Cupid, Bacchus, Flora, and others all claim the fame and distinction of creating the beloved rose.
One myth claims the rose was created by the gods who were so awed by the beauty of Venus that they created a flower in her honor to equal her beauty. Others myths claim roses sprang from the tears Venus shed over the slain Adonis. Originally their flowers were pure white like her tears, but changed to red when she pricked her skin as she tried to help him. Another claims the impish Cupid was carrying a vase of nectar to the gods on Mount Olympus. In his haste, he stumbled and splashed the nectar on the earth, which immediately blossomed into roses.
Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers, bestowed the title of “Queen of all Flowers” on the rose. Through the ages, the rose has been honored in art, song and verse from the poetry of Shakespeare and Burns to the simple nursery rhymes of our childhood like “Ring around the Rosie.
American and English gardeners have always had an affair of the heart with roses, the national floral emblem of both countries. However, throughout Europe, the rose is regarded as an evil omen or even a premonition of death by the superstitious. But, on Valentine’s Day, we remember its romantic meanings and messages of love as well as its symbolism of beauty, peace, celebration and good luck.
O, my love’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly spring in June;
O, my love’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly played in tune.