People have given each other flowers for centuries, if not millennia. Different flowers symbolize different things and different cultures, but they always serve as a gesture of positivity and care.
Why is it that flowers have never gone out of style? Why do we continue to give each other flowers for major events and holidays? And will flowers symbolize positive aspects of life forever?
The Unique Appeal of Flowers
We can start dissecting this concept by explaining what makes flowers so uniquely appealing in the first place. We don’t exchange gifts of tree bark or shelf mushrooms with any degree of regularity, So what makes flowers stand out? And how do these qualities make flowers so appealing for so many people, even after thousands of years.
- Colors. From the time we’re infants, we can’t help but be drawn to bright, beautiful colors. Everything in nature is beautiful, in its own way, but flowers stand out from the blended shades of green with eye-catching reds, oranges, yellows, violets, and all the other colors of the rainbow. If you can imagine a color, there’s probably a flower that embodies it. And collecting different types of flowers together can produce arrangements that are visually stunning. This gives flowers lasting meaning and value, enabling us to find the perfect color for a given situation, find flowers that match our favorite colors, and remind us just how beautiful the world really is.
- Historic and new symbolism. Flowers represent many things simultaneously. When given as a Valentine’s Day gift, they represent love and admiration. A bouquet of flowers at a funeral represents mourning and respect for the departed. Depending on the context, a gift of flowers could be an apology or a demonstration of hospitality. Historically, flowers have represented all kinds of things, and their symbolic meanings have subtly shifted over the years. Part of the reason flowers have become so entrenched in our society is because they’re associated with both major holidays and smaller holidays like birthdays.
- Natural reminders. Some people appreciate flowers because they connect us to the natural world. Your job may have you trapped in a visually bland cubicle, but if you have a bouquet of flowers nearby, a simple glance can remind you of what’s waiting for you outside. In more abstract ways, because flowers eventually wither and die, flowers come to represent the cycle of life; they emerge from nothing, present us with temporary beauty, and eventually die. While it’s a bit morbid to think about (if you think about it too much), it’s clear why flowers have so much meaning.
- Floral scents. Flowers also typically carry powerful, pleasant aromas. Whether you’re interested in freshening up a room that’s typically unpleasant, or you just want something nice to smell in the middle of your work day, having flowers nearby is a net benefit. Various natural scents, like lemon oil, teach us that human beings love pleasant smelling, natural aromas; even if you removed their other features, flowers would still be a vessel for these.
- Representations in art and media. It helps that flowers are often the subject of artists. In any art. In history, you can find beautiful paintings of flowers and floral scenes – and flowers make appearances in TV shows and movies as well. Culturally, we’ve been reinforced with the idea that flowers are an important and flexible symbol, so it’s only natural that they’ve become ingrained in our minds as powerful.
- Genuine psychological effects. It’s not in our heads; flowers make us happy. Possibly because of a combination of factors on this list, and possibly because of factors beyond our understanding, flowers do produce a genuine and measurable psychological effect.
An Evergreen Symbol
Is there a reason why flowers have remained such an evergreen, timeless symbol?
- Flowers have been here forever. Based on our current understanding, flowers have been on this planet for over 130 million years. Considering humans are just a few million years old, we’ve had flowers as a natural backdrop essentially forever.
- Traditions often persist. Traditions are created to be followed indefinitely. That doesn’t mean they will be, but it sets the stage for a repetitious future. When flowers became associated with major holidays and life events, their cultural relevance increased significantly.
- We all need gift ideas. Flowers are a relatively inexpensive and convenient gift option for almost anyone, and for almost any occasion.
Are Humans Drawn to Flowers Forever?
We’ve established why flowers are powerful, and why they’ve remained such a mainstay of various cultures for thousands of years. So does that mean that flowers will remain in our collective consciousness forever?
No one can predict the future. But as long as flowers are bright, beautiful, aromatic, and symbolic, it’s unlikely that our passion for them will ever fade away.