Going Back To Our Roots
Have an anniversary coming up? Give them flowers! Forgot about your friend’s birthday celebration and don’t have time to get a gift? Get a bouquet of their favorite flowers! Want to cheer up your loved one but don’t know how? Flowers will do the trick! Throughout human history, giving flowers as a gift has been one of the most consistent traditions across a wide range of countries, despite the difference in culture and customs. So when did it start?
In this article, we talk about the history of the tradition of flower giving and how it carried on and evolved throughout time and spread around the globe. We learn about the impact it has made and continues to make in human life and its relationships. Finally, in the last section of this post, we discover the height of significance of this tradition during the Victorian Era, when nearly everyone knew exactly which flowers mean what emotions and what kind of arrangements sent certain messages. Look out for our next article for a crash course on the language of flowers.
If you are interested in a formal course or want to get certified as an expert on everything related to the industry, we recommend looking into professional bodies and colleges in floristry such as the American Institute of Floral Designers or the AIFD (www.aifd.org), the Society of American Florists (www.safnow.org), the American Floral Endowment (www.endowment.org) and other similar organizations offering programs specializing in floristry.
Flowers and Gift-Giving Traditions
The origins of giving flowers as a customary practice go as far back as the time of Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and the Roman Empire. These three societies commonly made use of flowers in religious practices, and base their own personal use of flowers on their myths and legends. Believed to be gifts from the gods, the Greeks initially used them as natural props for storytelling and decorative ornaments for their ceremonies.
Later on, they then learned to practice exchanging flowers as a symbol of their affection towards one another or expressing their thoughts about another person through the flower they chose. From there, societies throughout history have kept the practice of gifting flowers as one of their traditions, no matter where they were in the world. During the Middle Ages, people from Turkey created the first list of meanings for flowers. This, as apparent in the history, later spread throughout the world and was modified and added on to by various other countries, heavily depending on their culture’s customs and beliefs.
Today, numerous studies have been conducted on the art of floristry and thus with this particular tradition of gifting flowers to one another. Several researchers have analyzed the relationship between one’s personality and relationship-building skills with whether they give flowers and/or floral arrangements as gifts. Perhaps unsurprisingly, results showed that people who habitually send out flowers to their loved ones to express their love and celebrate their joys were observed to be more adept at keeping healthy relationships and are generally more successful in their life.
The Victorian Era and Flowers
People who had lived in the Victorian Era were not only known for the fancy petticoats and suits, or their pioneer invention of the automobile, or the infamous monocle worn as status symbols by the higher epoch of society. They were also put down in history for their dependence on flowers as an expression of their feelings and sentiments towards other people. In this section, we discuss exactly the level of impact that flowers had on the Victorians’ communication behaviors and their interactions with one another.
The Victorians’ relationship with flowers could be described, in biological terms, as a symbiotic one. People were getting more into gardening and taking flower care more seriously in order to grow healthy, vibrant flowers that developed into new variations of species. The flowers, in turn, served as a prominent form of communication between lovers, friends, relatives, and even acquaintances.
From the passionate “I love you”, “I treasure you, my friend,” “Get well soon,” to the all-important “I’m sorry”, flowers played a vital part in how Victorian-era citizens expressed themselves and made their feelings known. It was particularly important during this period because the concept of expressing your deep emotions was considered tacky and inappropriate. As a result, people adapted the list of flower meanings initiated by Turkey during the Middle Ages and incorporated it into their interactions with other people.
Courting romantic interests, especially, was normally done through rapid exchanges of flowers (at least, as rapid as horse-trodden deliveries could get!) Some groups, in fact, had to come up with alternate meanings to flowers in order to communicate in secret, and keep their interactions hidden from prying eyes.
Not long after, most people knew exactly what every flower and floral arrangement meant, and could hold an entire conversation without uttering two words to each other. In fact, the practice of flower giving became so popular that people began using bouquets with intricate selections of flowers for sending specific messages to certain people. Later on, even the way that the person presented the floral gift was part of the message they were giving to their recipient, and it carried on, albeit with less dramatic quality, throughout history.