Flowers have been popular gifts since time immemorial. Flowers can be gifted on various occasions like birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. They are also used to express a variety of sentiments like love, admiration, friendship etc. Gifts flowers can also be used without any occasion to brighten up someone’s day.
But have you ever wondered how it all started? Who began the culture of gifting flowers? In which civilization or part of the world did these gifts flowers come into existence? How did they find such popularity? Let’s find some answers to these questions.
The Earliest History of Gift Flower
Who gifted the first floral bouquet to whom is not exactly known or recorded. These gift flowers do have a rich history spanning hundreds of centuries and many cultures.
The word bouquet has some interesting origins. The word tussie-mussie made in the 1400s means a small, meaningful bouquet made of herbs, flowers or both. A bouquet was often used to convey private messages to lovers.
During those days, the church disapproved of public display of affection by people. Under such circumstances, gifting a bouquet allowed people to express their romantic emotions without saying anything.
There is sufficient evidence to believe that flowers have been an important part of culture since prehistoric times. The discovery of Flower Fossils gives ample evidence of the presence of flowers in the prehistoric period.
Artists in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries depict flowers in their pictures. Archaeologists have found remains of flower petals in several ancient gravesites.
There is plenty of evidence to prove that gifts flowers were an important part of the culture in the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, flowers were often gifted as a form of charity. During that period, flowers were a part of tradition and superstition. It was believed that giving flowers to the leading lady at the end of the play was lucky for the play.
Floriography is the language of flowers that was used by people to communicate with each other. This language is hundreds of years old. This language has its origins in Persia and Turkey but it developed and became popular in the Victorian era.
The growth of this language contributed vastly to the growth of floral gifting culture. The more people took an interest in knowing about flowers, the more they started using gifts flowers to convey their feelings.
The French and English came across an entire language of flowers on their visit to Turkey in the mid-1700s. King Charles II of Sweden was exiled in Turkey and it is here he learned the language of flowers.
This language, which gave distinct meanings for different flower types, became the inspiration for a Victorian culture of gifting flowers based on the unique meaning of every flower. The language became so detailed that the military started using flowers to convey secret messages between troops.
The French and English people also had many beliefs which linked flowers with magical powers. This led to flowers being actively cultivated in the Victorian gardens. This, in turn, encouraged communication through flowers.
Victorians and Gift Flowers
The Victorians were typically shy of expressing their emotions in words. Any overt expression of emotions was considered bad manners. This is the era when flower gifting truly became popular as an unofficially approved means of communication among people. Gift flowers were safely used to express emotions that could not be expressed in words.
The people of the Victorian era took great effort to understand flowers and gave meaning to every characteristic of the flower. The color of the gift flower, its size, condition, accompanying flower and even the position of the flowers were all used to convey various messages without uttering a word.
A flower presented to someone upside down conveyed the opposite meaning of its original message. The presentation of the gift flowers and the hand used to present it also conveyed deep-seated meaning. For example, red roses gifted upside down were seen as symbols of anger.
The Victorians also created books and guides to understand the language of gift flowers. There were books which explained how to understand your flowers and a flower dictionary. The books were written by different authors in different times, but they all contributed to increasing the popularity of gift flowers.
Flower Gifting in Various Cultures
The stories and myths in the history of Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Chinese all have references to gift flowers. The people of Ancient Greece associated flowers with gods and goddesses. In Ancient Greece flowers were gifted to gods as offerings. Slowly men started gifting them to beautiful young women to express their love.
Chinese writings and Egyptian hieroglyphics mention floral gifting tradition. Egyptians have a tradition of gifting flowers to gods and lovers to express their love and admiration. Egyptian myths mention songs and feasts dedicated to the lotus flower. Ancient Egyptians used floral gifts as tokens of love.
Flower gifting is popular in Japanese tradition. Floral gifts are routinely given to the sick in Japan. In countries like Ghana, flowers are the most popular gifts due to their association with nature. French culture associates different meanings and values to different types of flowers.
Medival Europe adapted the culture of assigning meaning to individual flowers from the Middle East. Roses find plenty of mention in Egyptian culture and proverbs. Great Britain has a culture of floral gifting when invited to people’s homes.
Valentine’s Day and Gift Flowers
In Rome, the tradition of floral gifting originated in the third century on Valentine’s Day. Giving flowers to your loved ones on 14th February is seen as a sign of commitment across the world. The sale of roses touches new highs during Valentine’s Day.
Apart from Valentine’s Day, gift flowers are also popular during Women’s Day, Mother’s Day and Teacher’s Day. The commercial celebrations of these days have increased the popularity of gift flowers.
Flower Gifting in the United States.
Do you know in the United States, it was once considered inappropriate for a woman to gift flowers to a man? But in present times, it is perfectly fine for women to gift flowers to a man. Native Americans were deeply connected to nature and flowers are a part of their stories and beliefs.
The Society of American Florists was established in the late 1800s, and they began the tradition of modern gift flowers. The organization worked hard to create awareness about flower gifting by launching nationwide advertising campaigns. It is partly due to their efforts that in the present day gifting flowers have become commonplace in America.
Flowers are usually gifted during rites of passage. Flowers are also popular gifts during special occasions or to express sentiments to your loved ones in the United States.
Flower Gifting History in Asia and Africa
Southern parts of Africa follow a tradition of gifting flowers during Christmas. In Egypt, flowers are gifted only during weddings and funerals.
Chinese have a culture of gifting peonies to teachers. Russians follow the tradition of giving a single flower to their guest of honor. Russians also celebrate Woman’s Day with gifts of red roses, hyacinths and tulips.
Flower Gifting in the Philippines.
Due to the Catholic traditions in the country, the Philippines has a strong history of flower gifting. The Filipinos follow a tradition known as Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May), in which devotees offer flowers for the Virgin Mary.
The celebration continues throughout the entire month. After the festivities, the devotees gather the flowers and bring them home as gifts for their loved ones.
Gift Flowers and Festivals
Gift flowers are also a popular option during festivals like Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. Festivals signify happiness and what better way than a bunch of flowers to add to the cheer. Use of flowers for festival gifting has added to its popularity.
Present Day Flower Gifting
It is clear from the above discussion that the customs and traditions of countries across the world have contributed to the growth of floral gifting tradition. In the present day, flower gifting is a fast-growing industry cutting across borders.
In earlier times, flowers were gifted to show love or appreciation. The flowers were mostly plucked from your private garden, or they were those available locally.
But as with everything else, floral gifting has evolved considerably. Gift flowers are available in a wide variety. Gift flowers can be economical or elaborate, depending on your budget.
Better transportation means that flowers can be transported quickly across the world and people get to choose from a variety of blooms. Scientific flower cultivation has ensured the growth of unseasonal blooms.
The Internet plays a big role in expanding the scope of flower gifting. You can send flowers to anyone across the world with the mere click of a button. Virtual flowers are another option for floral gifting.
The internet provides knowledge about the variety of gift flowers available. It also provides options to order flowers from any part of the world.
With more awareness and easy access, the demand for exotic flowers is growing all over the world. This provides a host of opportunities to florists, cultivators and sellers for gainful employment. Gift flowers have been around for centuries, and they have a bright future ahead.