Abstract

The article considers gifting flowers as an essential element of the contemporary social practices embedded in them for the symbolic marking of the social relations that constitute such practices in a given social and cultural context. The authors note the uniqueness of flowers as a gift for they seem to be universal and multisymbolic indicator of motives and capabilities of the giver and the recipient, their real or desired relationship, and the state of the society as an objective context determining the specifics of a particular act of giving flowers here and now. The authors do not seek to provide some wide generalizations considering contemporary practices of giving presents in general or flowers in particular; the article considers the most important aspects of the sociological analysis of giving flowers’ practices that allow interpreting this social phenomenon on both theoretical and empirical levels. First, the authors outline key conceptual approaches to the study of gift giving practices: the anthropological approach focuses on the exchange of gifts in the traditional societies and traces the evolution of social ‘qualities’ and symbolic meanings of gifts up to the present era of mass culture; the semiotic interpretation defines gift as a communicative practice of coding and decoding; the linguistic-cultural approach considers the concept of the ‘gift’ as a frame-scenario representation; the economic approach analyzes the money ‘dimension’ of the gift; the psychological approach defines the gift as a combination of material (money) dimension and a way to express one’s motives and desires. Then the authors identify the specificity of the sociological interpretation of the gift, applying the network approach to the analysis of giving gifts as a routine daily practice and social ritual supporting everyday communication and breaking the ordinary course of life. The article deals with the symbolic codes of the ritualized practices of giving a bouquet of flowers, which differ by their origin and practical implementation in the past and present (a list of what flowers are now ‘able to do’ is provided); it stresses the need to take into account the ‘consumption’ of flowers as not only a process of production and interpretation of signs, but also as a range of marketing manipulations with flowers as an object of sale.

Keywords: flowers, gift, ritualized practice, everyday life, symbolism, codes.