A Carnation By Any Other Name (or Color or Number) May Not Smell as Sweet

russ flow

If you think you can’t go wrong with a gift of flowers for the one you love, think again. While flowers tend to be universally regarded as a gift of love or affection, there are plenty of additional factors to consider.

Take Russia, for example. Flowers are replete with hidden messages for the uninitiated:

  • Yellow Doesn’t Mean “Hello” — Yellow flowers are a way of saying, “Goodbye.” Whether as a gift for a loved-one who is about to leave home, or as a not-so-subtle break-up message to a soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, a yellow bouquet is the best way of saying, “I wish you well — far from here.”
  • It is Odd to be Even — The Western concept of giving a dozen roses to your sweetheart does not carry over to Russia. Flowers are typically given individually or in groups of odd numbers. Generally, the only time a dozen flowers are presented is on Remembrance Day, when a collection of 12 flowers is laid on the grave of the honored dead. Unless you are trying to wish death upon someone, avoid giving a dozen roses; and since the number 13 is considered unlucky, you had better stick with 11 flowers, or splurge and give 15.
  • All is Fair in Love and War — Except Carnations — We already know to avoid yellow flowers, so you might think that red would be safe. You would be correct, unless the flower in question is a carnation. Red carnations are generally identified with soldiers who have died in battle.
  • Make Sure the Bloom Does Not Fade — Once the acceptable flowers have been given and accepted, the test is not over. Russian tradition says that the intensity of the admirer’s feelings is directly related to how long the flowers last before withering. A bouquet that withers away in a day is an indication that the suitor’s love will be just as transitory. Perhaps if you are really serious, you should consider plastic flowers?
  • Support the Local Economy — If you really want to show your affection, consider a gift of chamomiles, the traditional flower of Russia. They grow wild in the countryside, and since they are rarely sold commercially, collecting your own bouquet and presenting it as a gift is sure to leave a lasting impression. Provided the flowers aren’t yellow… or even-numbered… and don’t wither in a day… and don’t have a red carnation in the mix….



Categories: Customs, Numbers

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