Giving flowers as a gift is a time-honored tradition. In times of celebration, sorrow, as a thank-you, an apology and a symbol of romance, flowers are appropriate for just about every occasion. We've been giving each other flowers for thousands of years as a way to express our emotions.
A 2005 study at Rutgers University theorized something most of us have already figured out: Flowers just make us feel better. The 10-month study offered hard evidence that giving people flowers provides therapeutic benefits. Women who received flowers actually reported more positive moods several days later. Participants aged 55 and up also reported uplifted moods and even improved memory [source: Haviland-Jones].
The ancient Romans, Chinese and Greeks all wrote about flowers in their stories and myths. In the Victorian age, people used flowers as a way of showing their feelings because at that time, society discouraged open verbal expressions of emotion. Specific colors meant certain things: Red signified passion, white meant chastity or virtue and yellow showed friendship. Even the size of the flowers or their arrangement could convey a message.
You must take care, however, when presenting someone from another country or culture with flowers. What means something lovely to you may be offensive or bad luck to someone else. In Russia, the Ukraine and former members of the Soviet Union, if you plan to give a woman flowers for a joyful occasion, make sure you give her an odd number of flowers (unlike the even dozen typically given in North America). Even numbers of flowers are reserved for grieving and funerals. This tradition also holds true with some Europeans, but also steer clear of the number 13, as it's considered an unlucky number. Also, avoid giving a woman yellow flowers. Yellow is said to signify the end of a relationship. Unless that's your intent, of course!
Now that you know why it's bad luck to give someone an even number of flowers, let's check out some other flower-related traditions and superstitions around the world.
- Peonies are among the most popular flowers for weddings in China.
- In Asia, giving someone a potted plant is bad luck because it signifies the restriction of a relationship.
- Giving flowers in Egypt is typically reserved for weddings and funerals
- The British like to give flowers as hostess gifts, but white lilies are a symbol of death.
- In ancient Rome, brides carried flowers as an emblem of fertility and as a charm against bad luck.
Typically, giving someone flowers is a thoughtful and appreciated gesture in all cultures. As long as you're aware of cultural traditions, why not brighten someone's day? Just maybe avoid an even number of them.