The most commonly used Valentine’s Day symbol is the red heart. There are several others, many familiar and a few that are not so well known, but each of them represent the same thing: love or affection for another. The red heart is used extensively to express love, not just on Valentine’s Day but at any time of the year. While we instantly recognize it for what it stands for, where and when this symbol became associated with Valentine’s Day may not be so well known.
Used as a decoration on greeting cards, as well as the shape being used for chocolate boxes, jewelry items, pillows and just about anything else you can think of. Interestingly enough the red heart shape synonymous with Valentine’s Day looks nothing like the shape of the human heart. When used to signify love it may or may not be associated with another symbol of Valentine’s Day: Cupid. The red heart sometimes will have Cupid’s arrow piercing it.
In ancient times people believed that the heart was the center of all emotion and therefore where love was felt. Today we know that emotions are nothing to do with the heart and in fact are a function of the brain. Despite knowing the anatomical truth when a person feels the emotion of love it often feels as if it does indeed come from the heart region of the body.
Flowers have been offered to women throughout the ages as a token of a man’s love or affection, with different flowers being associated with different feelings. Red roses are typically a symbol of love, whether it is a single long stemmed rose or a bouquet of a dozen or more. Though sales of red roses go through the roof around the time of Valentine’s Day men have been giving them to women whenever they want to express their love to them.
There are various explanations for how the red rose became a symbol of love and therefore Valentine’s Day. One such story tells of Rodanthe, a beautiful maiden who was being wooed by a number of suitors. At one point they broke down Rodanthe’s doors, which made the goddess Diana very angry. In response to their action she turned Rodanthe into a beautiful red rose, and her suitors into thorns.
Another story tells of Cupid spilling some nectar on the ground as he was carrying a vase of it to the Gods on Mount Olympus. A beautiful rose grew from the spot in which the nectar had been spilled. The red rose was the favorite flower of the Goddess of Love, Venus and when you rearrange the letters of the God of Love’s name, Eros, it spells rose.
While the rose is often given to declare one’s feelings it is only the red rose that is associated with love and passion, which is why so many women hope that they will receive at least one red rose on Valentine’s Day.
Lace and Ribbon
Often used to tie around a Valentine’s Day gift you may also see ribbon and lace adorning the more expensive greeting cards for this special occasion. Both are seen as symbols of love and romance. In the days of knights the men would be presented with laces by their women to carry into battle, in the hope that it would give the knights good reason to return unharmed.
Many centuries ago women would carry lace handkerchiefs and etiquette demanded that should a lady drop her handkerchief near a man he was required to pick it up and return it to her. Given the gowns often worn in that era bending down to pick up a handkerchief was a difficult task for a woman. The dropping of a lace handkerchief became a way for women to subtly declare interest in a particular man and quickly became associated with romance.
Doves and Lovebirds
It is not uncommon for white doves to be incorporated into wedding celebrations and they often are used as a symbol of Valentine’s Day. There is a reason behind this though, being that hundreds of years ago it was believed that birds found their mate on February 14th. Though it scientifically very unlikely that birds only find their mate on one day of the year, the romanticism of the idea is appealing and certainly is in line with the whole Valentine’s Day theme.
The Celts incorporate love knots into many of their decorative items, and it can often be seen as a symbol used for Valentine’s Day. The design of a love knot appears to have no beginning and no end, therefore going on forever, winding and intertwining two threads, much as an eternal love between two people will. This is one of the reasons that the Celtic Love Knot is very commonly used on wedding rings. As well as being an attractive design it is a symbol of eternal love.