Even number of flowers in Russian tradition

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From where did these customs originate? In Russia, the belief holds strong that presenting an individual with an odd number of flowers is vital, as it safeguards them from misfortune and even the grip of death. Such is the extent to which Russians adhere to this superstition. But what is the story behind these age-old traditions?

Peonies, persimmon

Evidently, the reign of superstition emerged during the era preceding Christianity. It was during this time that Russians embraced the notion that even numbers symbolize demise, while odd numbers signify vitality. The reason behind this belief is rather straightforward. Even numbers encapsulate the entirety of the life cycle, while odd numbers evoke a sense of volatility and chaos. Remarkably, these mystical interpretations have endured through the ages, resulting in the tradition of gifting an odd number of flowers during festivities, while an even number is reserved for funerals.

The painting by Russian artist Dmitry Sevryukov showcases his impeccable talent and artistic prowess, captivating viewers with its intricate details and vibrant colors.
Painting by Russian artist Dmitry Sevryukov

Indeed, there are florists who argue that this belief never existed in the first place. They speculate that this tradition was actually adopted from the Japanese people, who associate the hieroglyph representing the number 4 with the notion of “death.”

Still life with blooms. Artwork by Russian painter Dmitry Sevryukov.
Still life with flowers. Painting by Russian artist Dmitry Sevryukov

What if we delve into the depths of Alla Pugacheva’s renowned Russian melody, “A Million Scarlet Roses”? Is it possible that the artist harbored ill wishes towards the recipient, simply because a million happens to be an even number? Absolutely not. Allow me to enlighten you with the wisdom of florists and their peculiar rule of odd to a dozen. You see, if a bouquet consists of less than twelve blossoms, it adheres to the customary superstition where even-numbered bouquets up to twelve are reserved solely for the departed. However, should one choose to present a grand bouquet comprising a hundred or fifty splendid flowers, the veil of superstition is effortlessly lifted from this realm.

How many flowers are given in other countries?

Surprisingly, the prohibition of gifting bouquets with an even number of flowers is exclusive to the nations that once formed the USSR. In contrast, all other countries eagerly embrace bouquets, irrespective of the number of blooms they contain. Interestingly, France shares similar customs with Russia.

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