Flowers and Culture


The meaning of flowers



Flowers are not only beautiful to look at, they also have cultural significance. For example, the cherry blossom is the national flower of Japan, the edelweiss is the floral emblem of Switzerland and the tulip is associated with the Netherlands. The carnation has great significance in Portugal because during the 1974 military coup, which began the revolutionary process towards a democratic Portugal, demonstrators placed carnations in the muzzles of soldiers' rifles. This decisive event in Portuguese history is known as the Carnation Revolution.

 Tulip fields in the Netherlands


Many flowers  have a symbolic meaning so that they represent special occasions. Different types of flowers are used for weddings, birthdays and funerals. For example, red roses are a symbol of romantic love and are given on Valentine's Day.


                            Collage of different types of flowers


 Valentine’s Day


 Valentine's Day, also known as St. Valentine's Day, is celebrated on 14 February. It was once a mainly Anglo-Saxon celebration, but has become increasingly popular in other countries in recent decades. It dates back to the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which celebrated the coming of spring and included fertility rites. At the end of the 5th century, the Pope replaced Lupercalia with St Valentine's Day, a celebration of romantic love and friendship. "Valentines" - Valentine cards - are often sent anonymously to a person one loves or is attracted to, or as an expression of affection and friendship. Flowers are another popular gift for Valentine's Day. 1-800-Flowers.com, a floral gift company, lists the following flowers as the top ten Valentine's Day flowers in the USA: roses, lilies, tulips, gerbera daisies, orchids, carnations, hydrangeas, sunflowers, gardenias, chrysanthemums.


Popular Valentine's Day flowers in the USA


When deciding to gift cut flowers, our decision should not only be based what type of flowers to buy, but we should also consider their origin and how they are produced. Many workers in the cut flower market have low wages and poor working conditions. The 2:04-minute video Fair Trade Romance? Why Fair Trade Flowers Matter on Valentine's Day explains what Fair Trade is about. For instance, no child labour is used and children are provided with an education instead. Farmers receive a higher income and working conditions are safer. In addition, products are of higher quality than in conventional flower farming. 





More information and materials regarding the meaning of flowers



The short video Flower Meanings By Kremp Florist (1:20 min.) provides some insights into the meaning of flowers.




The following website describes some interesting aspects of flowers, such as their symbolic meaning, their origin and fun facts:


 The Hidden Meaning of Flowers





The following blog offers a compilation of the meaning of gifting flowers in different countries:





A (non-virtual) memory game


The Memory game “Pick a Flower” by Laurence King Publishing in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is an entertaining way of learning more about flowers by matching 25 flowers with their uses and meanings. The game can also be useful in the classroom when dealing with a flower-related topic. One possible exploitation of the game is that every student gets a card and has to find his or her partner with the matching card. Later, each pair talks about their flower.


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