There are lots of occasions on which we give each other red flowers. The most noticeable being giving red Roses for Valentine’s Day or to someone that you (secretly) love. But what do red flowers mean exactly? Why do we give each other red flowers, and in particular Roses, for Valentine’s Day? For that and much more: we invite you to keep reading!
Symbolism of Red
Red has a powerful, albeit a little bit mixed symbolism. It’s the color of love, passion, and desire. But it also associated with war, danger, and aggression and is said to have an intimidating effect on your opponent. Some people even believe that it could be an advantage for sports teams to wear bright red jerseys because this would discourage the opponent.
We’re all for the flower power sentiment of spreading love instead of war, however, so we’d like to focus on the passionate meaning of red flowers.
Thanks to the association with love, red flowers are much given on days like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. But where does this meaning of red flowers stem from?
The Meaning of Red Flowers and Roses
The habit of gifting Roses for Valentine’s Day probably stems from the late 17th century, when King Charles II of Sweden went on a trip to Persia. Charles stumbled upon the art of communicating without words, using flowers. This practice became a hype in Europe quickly thereafter and lists of flowers and their meanings became widespread.
That doesn’t explain how red flowers got their meaning, however. So why Red Roses for Valentine’s Day?
That tale stems from Greek mythology. The Rose was associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. When her lover Adonis was killed by a wild boar, Aphrodite wept bitter tears for his demise. Where her tears touched the ground, Rose bushes grew, reddened by Adonis’ blood.
The tale has a (partial) happy end: Zeus restored Adonis to life. But because Persephone – goddess of fertility and dead – also demanded his love, it was decided that Adonis would spend six months in the underworld with her for every six months among the living with Aphrodite.
In this tale, the red Rose is the ultimate symbol of the love that Aphrodite felt for Adonis. She fed the flowers with her tears, and the red color symbolized the life of the lover that she had lost.
The Symbolism of Some Other Iconic Red Flowers
Red may very well be one of the most important colors in the flower industry. There are so many red-colored flowers! Which makes it difficult to decides which ones to choose when you want to give a loved one a nice bouquet of red for Valentine’s, a birthday, or another special occasion.
Here are some of the most iconic red flowers and their symbolic meaning! Other great red flowers to give someone are:
- Tulips: arguably the most iconic Dutch flower, in this iconic flower color. A match made in heaven. The symbolic meaning of Tulips, in general, is “perfect love”. Talking about a match made in heaven: it seems like you can’t go wrong with red Tulips.
- Amaryllis: the Christmas flower par excellence. Red Amaryllises are a must-have for the winter season. Amaryllises symbolize beauty and show affection or gratitude.
- Ilex: when the trees have lost their leaves, Ilex branches arise! A true winter and Holiday favorite, for good reason. Ilex symbolizes love and hope and is a bringer of luck. Celts also used it to keep evil away. A perfect symbol to gift to those you love!
- Anemone: a flower ever so delicate, fragile, and beautiful. An eye-catcher in every bouquet, especially in red. Anemones are a symbol of honesty and care.
A Short History of Red
Red is a color with a lot of history. In China, the color has been famous for centuries: since the Chinese empire and in the Republic of China. Examples include the Chinese flag and the infamous Red Book with statements of Mao Zedong.
In Moscow there is the famous Red Square (Krasnaya Ploshchad). The square is known for its political meaning and association with communism, but that is not where it got its name. In old Russian, “Krasnaya” meant “beautiful”.
The Nature of Red
In the West, we associate the red with heat, passion, sexuality, anger, and love. In China, India and other Asian countries, people have associated the color with happiness, power, and good fortune.
In politics, red has become the color of revolution. A few examples include:
- In Latin America, it’s the color of Liberalism and became strongly associated with Che Guevara
- Since the 19th century, it is associated with Socialism and Communism
- The British Labour Party used a red flag from its inception in 1900. Interestingly, it was replaced (at a party conference in 1986) by a red Rose
- The PvdA (the Dutch Labour Party) also uses a red Rose as its symbol
The Red of Nature
You know fall is starting when the leaves are turning red. It’s a color that often occurs in nature: in flowers, trees, animals, sand, and canyons. Think for example about the Grand Canyon. The stones are getting their color through iron oxide.
A Religious Color
Red is also widely used in religion. A good example is the clothes of cardinals of the Catholic church. This red symbolizes the blood they are willing to sacrifice for the church. Christmas is strongly associated with the color as well, as evidenced by the wide use of red as a Christmas color.
Muslim ladies often use red henna for weddings and other special occasions.
And in Buddhism, the color is the seconds most important color (after gold). It is a high energetic color and stands in this religion for transition and vitality.