Return to AVS Homepage
Return to Violet History & Traditions

St. Valentine's Violets
Written by:  Norma Beredjiklian.
Reprinted From The Violet Gazette, Winter 2001, V2-1,P7.

             Norma Beredjiklian, AVS officer and Editor of both Violet Gazette and the E-zine The Republic of Violet, writes independently about violet history and design, dogs, tech talk and women's issues from her "Hiddenbrook Cottage" in Herndon, Virginia.


"And on the violet's velvet leaves
He pierced these lines divine...
They simply said, I love you
And I'm your Valentine."

             On February 14, the florist trade will be engaged in sending millions of red roses around the country and abroad to complement the red wrappings of all Valentine-themed chocolate boxes and other gifts. And in the midst of all the excitement and romance predicted for such an occasion, very few will remember the flower or the saint who started this charming tradition: the violet and the martyred youth, Valentine.

              Alas! The time has come to put the record straight; St. Valentine's flower is not the rose, but the violet. Persecuted by a cruel Roman emperor, and in prison, this Christian priest continued his good works by encouraging other believers with messages of friendship and love.

             According to the legend, Valentine crushed the violet blossoms growing outside his cell to make precious ink with which to write, on the leaves, to his friends while an obliging dove delivered the notes. It is also said that Valentine maintained a remarkable epistolary relationship with his jailer's blind daughter to whom he wrote daily and cured of her ailment.

             St. Valentine was executed on 14 February 269 A.D. His demise coincided with the pagan festivals of Lupercalia held in honor of the goddess Juno, who favored women and marriage. From there on, this late winter festival was associated with romantic love, fertility rites and the coming of spring. Violets, linked to faithfulness or the "I return your love" sentiment, remained a symbol as well as a popular offering between lovers.

             In due time, and most specifically by the 18th century, the traditional and popular love missives were illustrated and marketed as postcards, becoming a hit all over Europe, particularly in Germany. St. Valentine's Day and his violets were also widely popular in the America of the 1800s; this tradition was documented in 1900 when the California poetess, Phoebe Fulkerson Harris (1830-1917) penned her famous "Lines accompanying a bunch of violets sent on St. Valentine's Day." It should also be noted that well into the 30s, New Englanders still preferred their Valentine's box of candies topped with a bouquet of violets

             For the last decade, the only wholesale violet farm left in the United States (California) and managed by the Garibaldi family, has been reporting record sales of violets on St. Valentine's Day week. It appears that at this time, florist designers in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond are busy creating violet-filled wreaths in the shape of hearts for their very sophisticated customers. Could this be a new trend in sync with the true traditions around St. Valentine's Day?

             Next Valentine's Day, let us remember the good saint, and honor our loved ones and special friends with bunches of sweet violets.

Return to Violet History & Traditions
Return to AVS Homepage