Most people know that giving a bouquet of red roses on Valentine’s Day is a nonverbal way of saying “I love you.” But few know that white roses convey an equally strong, but more complex sentiment in the language of flowers. While red roses remain the most commonly given flower on Valentine’s Day, the white rose carries a strong history of symbolism that makes it a beautiful gift on this holiday dedicated to love.
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The color white has long been used to represent innocence, spirituality and purity. These are the predominant meanings attached to white roses as well. Some ancient traditions state that the first rose in existence was white, and only became red when kissed by a goddess or stained by blood. According to ProFlowers.com, many early societies considered the pure white rose, not the red, as the original symbol for true love.
White rosebuds are a traditional symbol for girlish youth. When they are given as a token to a young girl, they are meant to express a feeling of love while acknowledging that she is not old enough to be involved in a romantic relationship.
White has long been considered a color that represents spiritual peace, reverence and unity. The giver of white roses may send them for the purpose of passing along a message of peace, or to express the desire for a deeper spiritual unity with the recipient.
The beauty and purity of true love are also represented by white roses. This is why the flower—also called the bridal rose—is commonly included in wedding bouquets and arrangements. The unblemished nature of the color white also symbolizes the idea of things that are new and untainted. Because of this, the gift of white roses on Valentine’s Day is particularly appropriate in the case of a new relationship, or during the newlywed period.
The white rose is commonly regarded as a symbol of death, hence the reluctance many feel at the thought of giving or receiving white roses on Valentine’s Day. In many cultures, white roses are indeed featured heavily in funeral and sympathy floral arrangements. The connection is understandable, as the color white represents heaven and the soul or spirit. But it is possible to view this connection with heaven in a romantic light, as white roses express the concept of everlasting or eternal love—a love relationship that will last beyond death.