Final year students over the world are once again graced with graduation season, but this year things are obviously not the same. Amidst the global pandemic, not only have classes and examinations been brought online, graduation certificates, that sacred piece of paper for which students spend close to 25 years of formal education on, are being sent out via mail. Convocations have been cancelled, brought online, or postponed (!) to the following year. We’re not sure about how many people appreciate going back for a graduation ceremony one year after the actual graduation, but it will likely make for a good get-together amidst everyone’s new stage of adulthood. This article is a tribute to all the graduates of 2020 who will be missing out on what we understand is deemed as one of the most important milestones in their lives.
The lack of physical graduation ceremonies should, however, not stop us from commemorating this important milestone. The internet is an amazing resource – worldwide, schools have capitalised on it to bring their convocation online, with students who are now back in their home countries simultaneously logging in to attend a virtual ceremony. On our part, we can similarly easily set up video calls with our graduating friends to send our congrats, and better still, tap on online delivery services to surprise them with graduation gifts. This is a great way to let our friends know that we haven’t forgotten about their achievements, and are here to celebrate with them in spirit. For ideas on graduation gifts, check out this previous article on the best graduation gifts new grads will love. There may be a multitude of plausible gifts, but when thinking about graduation gifts, one of the first things that come to our minds might possibly be a beautiful flower bouquet. It could almost be said to be a mainstay in all graduation pictures – apart from the gown and the certificate, one would be hard-pressed to find a graduate without a bouquet nestled snugly in their arms. If you are thinking of gifting your friend that graduation bouquet, there are many flower delivery services that could easily do you the favour. But hold up! Before you delve into a fervent search for flowers for your graduating friend/child/relative, let’s take some time to find out the why behind flower gifting at graduation ceremonies. That way, you could make your gift a lot more meaningful to the receiver and ensure that this pseudo-graduation becomes even more memorable.
The Gift of Flowers
We all have somewhat of an idea that different flowers represent different meanings, but they could definitely get confusing at times. This is because there are universal meanings (such as red roses for love) that most people understand, and then there are contextual meanings that differ from country to country (chrysanthemum is for mourning in Chinese culture, but commonly found at weddings in Egyptian culture!). However, while the meaning of different flower types varies across countries and even generations, the significance of sending flowers remains steadfast – flowers are essentially a form of communication, intended to conveys one’s intentions and sentiment. How then did such an act of flower gifting evolve to become a form of communication? A quick look at the history of gifting flowers may shed some light on this beautiful act.
The History of Flower Gifting
Flowers have always been appreciated for their beauty and colour (and may we add, grace). Akin to finding a rose amongst the thorns, it is no wonder that flowers were soon associated with Gods in ancient Greek culture. Flower offerings were initially made to temples, but eventually evolved to include gifting pretty women or goddesses with flowers. From such acts developed the association of flower gifting with a way of expressing feelings.
The ancient Egyptians also did not shy away from incorporating flowers into their traditions. Flowers were often used to decorate carts before heading into war, or sent as gifts to lovers and gods. Very specific to Egyptian culture was the Lotus – its behaviour of opening in the morning and closing at night symbolized renewal and regeneration to the Egyptians, giving it a divine status in their culture.
Perhaps the ancient civilisation that best contributed to the use of flowers as a form of communication was the Victorians. With a culture that deemed expressing emotions through words rude, the Victorians resorted to using flowers to convey feelings. They went so far as to develop meanings for each flower based on the flower’s characteristics, colour, behaviour, smell. Furthermore, the presentation of the flower was another language in itself – giving someone a flower upside down meant you were expressing the opposite of the flower’s supposed original meaning. This intricate art of associating meaning to flowers is what we now know as Floriography, the language of flowers.
As we have seen, humans have attached meaning to flowers ever since a really long time ago. The fact that we have written an entire language based on one of nature’s most beautiful creations is a pretty amazing feat itself. Understanding this most definitely puts us in a better position to use flowers to convey our thoughts and emotions, regardless of whether these associations remain the same as that of the Greeks, Egyptians and Victorians of thousands of years ago.
Now, if we just bring ourselves back to modern day flower gifting, we should be able to better understand the intention behind getting flowers as graduation gifts.
Flowers at Graduation
What does one intend to communicate by gifting a nice flower bouquet to a graduate? Over the years, gifting flowers at graduation ceremonies has definitely become some sort of custom. In addition, it is an undeniably easy option to fall back on when out of ideas for gifts. Yet behind such a customary gesture, there often is still intent and purpose.
Very much like the Victorians, flowers as graduation gifts have great potential to serve as a form of communication. Think about a graduation ceremony, and a picture of chaotic chatter with hundreds of people milling around inevitably comes to mind. Amidst the tens of people simultaneously grappling for the graduate’s attention, it is difficult to find a quiet moment to properly convey your congratulations. In such a scenario, gifting flowers is like a gift of words. Whatever you want to convey to your friend/child/relative, you can do so by selecting the flower type with the corresponding meaning. If you’re lucky, the receiver of this bouquet could be an expert at floriography, and immediately understand your intended message. Otherwise, make sure that you do add in a handwritten card amongst the bouquet that explains your choice of flower(s), so that your meaningful gift does not get mistaken as a customary, standard one that you merely chose out of convenience.
With that said, what kind of significant messages could you convey with flowers? We’ve put together a list of the more common graduation flowers, as well as a couple more that could bring about an interesting message when used as graduation gifts.
Flowers and their meanings
Sunflowers are a hot favourite for graduation bouquet. An obvious reason for that is the happy, cheery mood that its bright colours easily puts us into! It is an easy way to brighten up someone’s day, and definitely serves as a nice splash of colour in graduation photos. But sunflowers are so popular not just for their aesthetic – the typical yellow colour that they come in is associated with some very positive symbolizations too. Yellow mainly symbolizes friendship in our culture (which makes them a good gift for friends), but they also symbolize happiness, intelligence and vitality. That does seem like the perfect uplifting message to someone who’s just about to enter the working world!
Other than sunflowers, gerberas (a type of daisy native to South Africa) are another top choice. Like the sunflower, they signify cheerfulness, happiness and joy, due to their vibrant colours. In fact, in the Victorian floriography that we mentioned earlier, gerberas literally mean happiness! To the graduate, gerberas serve as a reminder to seize the present moments and embrace sunshine and warmth into one’s life.
While sunflowers and gerberas are the popular choices, why not do something out of the ordinary and gift flowers that are less common, yet have interesting meanings that can potentially serve as graduation gift messages?
The bird of paradise is a beautiful architecture of a flower that symbolizes freedom and joy. Its unique appearance of spiked petals resembles that of a bird in flight, so it’s not difficult to see why this could be a really interesting graduation message – spread your wings and take flight, the sky’s your limit now!
Alstroemeria (the Peruvian Lily) is another novel flower for a graduation gift. The alstroemeria generally represents friendship, strength and support, though take note that the colour of the flower can influence its meaning. The origin of this representation of friendship comes from how the leaves of the alstroemeria twist and turn around each other, signifying strength in unity. Choosing the yellow alstroemeria further solidifies your message of friendship, because once again yellow represents happiness and energy, as though telling your friend how happy he/she makes you. All in all, the alstroemeria is a great way to tell your graduating friend that you’ve got their back regardless of life’s future hurdles, and that your friendship will stay strong throughout. Seems like a pretty amazing way to come to the end of one’s formal education years!
The protea flower is another extremely meaningful flower to gift a graduate. The protea is the national flower of South Africa but can be found worldwide. Its uniqueness comes from its bold shape and its ability to survive in harsh weather conditions. When proteas bloom, they transform into an extremely beautiful and unique flower, and this translates into a message to believe in one’s strengths, hustle hard, and due success will follow. With such symbolizations of courage, boldness, diversity and transformation, the protea is a natural bearer of a message of empowerment and resilience to the graduate.
Another good one to add to the books is the bells of Ireland flower. Ironically, they are native to Turkey, but got their name because their shape and flowers resemble an Irish good luck charm. Since Victorian times, the bells of Ireland, especially with their fresh green colour, have symbolized good luck and well wishes. Particularly meaningful to people starting a new phase of life or a new job, these flowers will definitely be a well-received graduation gift.
Getting those flowers to your friend
Now that you’ve learnt something about the meaning behind giving various flowers as graduation gifts, we do hope you won’t dismiss flowers as a cliched, standard gift whenever you give (or receive) one at a graduation ceremony. With proper thought put into the choice of flower, a bouquet of flowers will definitely do wonders in conveying your heartfelt congratulations to your graduating friend.
If you’ve read this article because the thought of gifting your graduating friend with flowers has crossed your mind, then we sincerely hope you’ll really consider following through with that thought and give your friend a wonderful surprise! However, we completely understand that it can be tough to navigate the whole act of gifting flowers amidst such unpredictable times. Do not pull your hair out over the matter though, because online florists (insert link to shop) have made it incredibly simple to still deliver on these graduation traditions. In addition, we hope that reading this article has made the flower selection process a little more interesting and meaningful for you too.
Writer: Engracia Loh