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Rose-Giving Traditions Around the World

woman holding a bouquet of red roses with greenery

Roses are beloved around the world. Beautiful, uniquely fragrant, and full of symbolism, they’re the subjects of poetry and featured in books and movies. Prized by gardeners and cherished as gifts, roses have a starring role in romantic history. They’re a mainstay for Valentine’s Day and anniversaries. But around the world, rose-giving traditions can vary. Their reputation for romance is well-known and widely shared, but different cultures tell their own stories of what it means to give roses.

Of course, we at The Bouqs Co. believe there are as many occasions to send roses as there are rose colors – but let’s explore some of the ways that roses speak in other cultures!

Hungary: A Somber Affair

We’ll get the bummer out of the way first. In Hungary, roses are actually a popular funeral flower. While they still retain the classic rose symbolism of love and even romance in that context, they tend to represent one’s undying love for a lost friend, spouse, or relative – so they may not be the most appropriate gift for a first date in Budapest!

Mexico: It’s All About Color

Roses are also funeral flowers in Mexico, but here it’s a matter of choosing the color carefully. Yellow roses symbolize death in traditional Mexican culture, so it’s not a good idea to show up for a date or a fiesta with a yellow bouquet! This is just one of many rules of thumb for giving roses in Mexico.

If you’re giving red roses in Mexico, you’d better be serious! These beauties are loaded with meaning – two, in fact. In terms of romance, they profess grand, undying love. They also stir up superstitions of magic and spell casting. Purple roses symbolize witchcraft and casting spells too, so there are plenty of ways to infuse rose-giving with some high drama!

When in Mexico, unless you’re prepared to make a bold statement, the best bet is a white bouquet. Also, Mexican culture is bold and colorful, so it’s not so unusual for the sentiment to match the rose!

Peru: It’s Not About Roses

Valentine’s Day falls during Carnival, which gives many South Americans the advantage of time off to plan. In Peru, the plan is big romance. Peruvian paramours, though, aren’t thinking of roses. The romantic flower of choice in Peru is the orchid.

There are over 3,000 native orchid species in Peru. The myriad of dramatic blooms in vivid colors pairs well with the festive environment of Carnival. No wonder they’re the choice for romance!

Kenya: Growing Roses for Our Traditions

If you’ve lived in Europe, there’s a good chance your Valentine’s Day or anniversary rose bouquet came from Kenya. Commercial rose growing in Kenya goes back decades. The country is famous for its vibrantly colored blooms. Rich soil and an abundance of sunlight give Kenya’s roses their natural, distinctive hues.

While Africans are conservative about gift-giving, flowers are culturally appropriate for many occasions. Their great rose tradition, though, is one they share with the rest of the world. That takes rose-giving to a whole new level!

South Korea: Birthday Roses

South Koreans take rose-giving in a different direction by making these lovely blooms a coming-of-age symbol. Every May, on Coming-of-Age Day, South Koreans have a giant party celebrating all the young people turning 20 that year, at which the birthday boys and girls (men and women?) exchange gifts, including bouquets of roses – typically red.

It’s not clear why this particular flower, so closely associated with romance and passion across the globe, has stuck with 19-going-on-20-year-olds in South Korea, but we love roses so much, we can’t judge!

Finland: Friend’s Day

Speaking of giving roses in a non-romantic context, the Finnish have also adopted the rose as a symbol of appreciation between friends. In fact, every February 14, the Finnish swap the traditional Valentine’s Day for the more inclusive Friend’s Day, a custom that started in the 1980s and hasn’t gone anywhere since. We can’t blame them – we’re firm believers in spreading the (flower) love, romantic or not!

In that spirit, the Finnish celebrate Friend’s Day by exchanging cards, candy, and pink roses.

Catalonia: Saint George’s Day

Saint George’s Day (Sant Jordi in Catalan) kind of takes the cake as the most extravagant rose tradition on this list. It isn’t so much the manner of giving roses – as usual, bunches and bouquets of roses are exchanged between friends and loved ones – but rather the folklore behind the tradition that’s unique.

Legend has it that St. George, your typical knight in shining armor, saved both a town and a princess by slaying a dragon who’d taken up residence nearby. When the dragon fell, roses sprang up from where its blood had spilled – and now every April 23, Catalonians give each other red roses to symbolize St. George’s valiance and sacrifice. Swoon!

China: A Real-Life Fairy Tale

Cut flowers are traditionally for funerals in China. In this case, both yellow and white roses represent death. White, furthermore, symbolizes bad luck. Numbers are highly symbolic in Chinese culture, and influence flower-giving in many ways. The number 14, for example, means imminent death, so a bouquet of 14 roses would not be well received. But recently a modern-day fairy tale and a magical number gave red roses renewed significance in Chinese romantic culture.

It was a grand romantic gesture in 2012 that brought back the true fairy tale symbolism of red roses. A young man had 9,999 roses stitched together to create a stunning bridal gown for his bride-to-be. In addition to the romantic color of the flowers, the number holds significance as 9,999 represents forever in Chinese culture, surpassed only by 10,000, which is a number reserved for gods. This proposal ignited a renewed passion for red roses and timeless romance throughout China.

Taiwan: Valentine’s Day Roses, Upgraded

We’ve talked about how number symbolism fits into a “language of flowers”, but Taiwan’s Valentine’s Day rose traditions take that symbolism to the next level. When V Day rolls around, rose bouquets are bought in specific numbers to send particular messages to crushes and loved ones:

  • A single rose symbolizes one-and-only love.
  • 11 roses are given to a “special someone.”
  • 99 roses are given to someone you’ll love for eternity.
  • 108 roses = “Will you marry me?”
  • Time to get counting!

Honor Your Rose Giving Traditions with The Bouqs Co.

Giving roses and flowers is a language we share throughout the world. Perhaps these insights into rose-giving tradition have inspired you to buy a bouquet of lovely, fragrant blooms for your own special someone… or yourself! Whether you’ve got a romantic occasion coming up, you’re looking for the perfect V-Day gesture, or you just want to treat yourself with some flower-filled self-love, The Bouqs Co. sustainable, farm-to-table roses for all your traditions, old and new!

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