What it really means when you receive roses on Valentine’s day.

For centuries, we have associated the red rose with the powerful idea of love. A dozen roses are a common representation of affection given on Valentine’s day, and even a go-to symbolism of romantic apology.

This romantic association has been prevalent throughout epic literature, symbolising passion, lust, devotion, romance, and tragedy. Perhaps most famously, Shakespeare’s Juliet said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but the trope echoes throughout history in the works of Robert Frost, William Blake, Oscar Wilde, Emily Bronte, and countless others.

The spring rose is beautiful, untainted, representing of growth and life, just like the passion of a new love. One is drawn to the image and scent of the flower instinctually, just as one is taken into the throws of love and lust with sweet abandon.

But the rose also posses a darker duality in meaning; a rose, though beautiful, is adorned with protective thorns. As much as love is wonderful, it is wild, with the exquisitely enticing ability to hurt those who fall within its tangles.

A rose must be pruned and cultivated to survive, just as any relationship, and yet sadly, its life is fleeting, as all flowers eventually wilt and die. Like a delicate rose ravaged by time or neglect, love is illusive and ultimately, temporary.

The red rose is a universal symbol of the beauty and power of love, but too a warning of its destructive nature and a gentle reminder that one must always cherish love as it lasts.