Working for the religions and cultures already prevalent in your community can help increase revenues.
By Andrew Joseph
As a florist, you always the challenge of coming up with inventive ways to increase your revenues. There are larger displays, a more varied offering of flowers and hosting more workshops or in-store events, and even providing themed floral options, to name but a few methods.
But it’s the themed floral options that need a subset rather than just providing floral options for Valentine’s Day, Halloween or Thanksgiving, and it’s based upon the way our population has become more diversified than ever.
According to data from the 2020 U.S. Census, America has seen a huge growth in the multiracial population while the White population has declined for the first time since Europeans traveled across the pond in 1565, when the Spanish arrived at St. Augustine, Fla., some 22 years before the British tried to establish the Roanoke settlement in 1587 in present-day Virginia. The people who settled in Roanoke all disappeared under mysterious circumstances—a mystery still ongoing.
According to the most current data, the racial/ethnic breakdown of the American population is:
• White: 57.8 percent
• Hispanic or Latino: 18.7 percent
• Black or African American: 12.4 percent
• Asian: 6.0 percent
That adds up to 94.9 percent, and the remaining 5.1 percent comprises American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and Other.
America is more diverse than ever, in terms of not only race and ethnicity but also culture and religion, and that diversity is an area the floral sector should examine to see if there are ways to improve retail economics. Depending on the background of the florist, many of those markets may be untapped as revenue sources.
It’s true that few people come out and state that they are Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish, et al., when purchasing flowers. But if you can read your locale’s customer base(s) and learn when and what that base(s) will be celebrating, it will help increase your revenues.
In this article, we present a listing of some of the major religious and cultural holidays, with a brief description of each. Should you wish to expand your customer base to the increasingly diverse American consumer bases, at least you will know when to begin preparing. We’ve glossed over Christian holidays in this article—not out of any disrespect—because most people in the U.S. and Canada tend already know what and when they are. We assume you do, too, and that you seize on those opportunities for sales.
We suspect that many of you may have an inkling of some religious and cultural festivals and celebrations but are unsure how your flower shop can help these customers who may have specific requests or how to entice them with options they didn’t know you could provide. Please note that there are hundreds of cultural and religious celebrations that are celebrated by communities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Because we are unable to provide recognition to all—indeed, you may feel we have left out an important observance for which we apologize—but we provide descriptions, dates and floral possibilities for those mentioned.
To be frank, the writer believes that Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion. It owes its origins to India founded by Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) more than 2,500 years ago and is based on Hindu beliefs. However, while most Indians fell away from it, Buddhism was embraced wholeheartedly by other Asian countries, including Bhutan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kalmykia, Laos, Macau, Mongolia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam.
Unlike other religious or cultural festivals, Buddhist celebrations aren’t so … loud. Wesak is the most important Buddhist holiday, celebrated to honor the birth and death of Buddha and to contemplate his enlightenment while gaining their own. Celebrated on the full moon in May, celebrations are done by cleaning and decorating the home and going to a temple to worship. At the temple, people bring flowers, candles and food to the monks and for the statue of Buddha. Water is ladled onto a statue of Buddha, recalling the need to purify the minds of selfishness and maliciousness.
In Japan, a specific Buddhist festival is Hana Matsuri, which translates to Flower Festival, also celebrates the birth of Buddha. It is held on April 8 of each year, and it appears to be less about Buddhism and more about looking at the sakura (cherry) blossoms appearing on the trees—and drinking and eating underneath the trees.
Flowers? Flowers represent generosity and show the beauty of enlightenment. However, for Wesak, we suggest the evergreen sorrowless tree (Saraca indica/S. asoca) for the birth and the Siamese aal (Shorea obtusa) for the death. An add-on/finishing touch could be an herbal tea for customers to take home with them.
Unrelated to festivals, there’s the Bodhi or sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa), which the Buddha sat under when he attained enlightenment. Offer a small potted Bodhi/sacred fig tree for practitioners to sit with for personal introspection.
Diwali is the five-day Festival of Lights for Hindus and Sikhs and celebrates the triumph of good, light and knowledge over evil, darkness and ignorance. It celebrates the harvest, and, as such, also celebrates the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, who is guided to the home by a series of lights or lanterns. Windows are left open, or drawings of lotus flowers are used to entice her to the home. Providing real lotus flowers (Nelumbo nucifera) is a much-accepted alternative. But, having said that, orange and golden yellow marigolds (Tagetes erecta) are the flowers of Diwali (and other Hindu ceremonies). The marigold is described by Hindus as the “herb of the sun”—i.e., good and light—and is used to celebrate beginnings and important events of life. Diwali is celebrated on different dates each year. The next two celebrations will occur on Nov. 12, 2023, and Nov. 1, 2024.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival celebrating the birth of the Hindu god Ganesha, a.k.a. Ganapati, the elephant-headed God of New Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles as well as the god of wisdom and intelligence. Flowers are a large part of the celebrations as Ganesha is worshipped with his favorite flowers, including red Hibiscus, marigolds, and crown flower (Calotropis gigantea). If you can get it, Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) can be included. Because the number 21 is considered a sacred number, 21 types and/or varieties of flowers and foliage can be used during this celebration. The next two dates celebrated are Sept. 19, 2023, and Sept. 7, 2024.
Dussehra is a 10-day festival that celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana and the triumph of the goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. Homes are commonly decorated with marigolds, asters and Dahlia, with idols having flowers such as roses and jasmine placed upon; however, flower choice depends on the region people are from as some will use orchids, Anthurium, and ‘Stargazer’ Oriental hybrid lilies. Flowers are also used to decorate buildings, including jasmine, asters, sunflowers and marigolds. Future festivals will be held Oct. 15-24, 2023, and Oct. 3-12, 2024.
Makar Sankranti is a Hindu harvest festival that celebrates the sun god Surya and the first day of the sun’s transit into the constellation of Capricorn, marking the end of winter and the beginning of longer days as the sun moves northward. It is usually a day dedicated to kite flying and consuming sesame sweets , but flower garlands and home decorations with flowers are also the norms. While flowers such as marigolds are used, there are no specifics that this author could find. This event usually celebrated in mid-January; the date shifts each year.
In Islam, the rose is known as the “Flower of Heaven,” meant to symbolize the soul, and they are used in weddings and funerals. Tulips—specifically red—are also held in high regard. After Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammed, was put to death by the army of Yazid I in the Karbala desert, a “blood rain” was said to have fallen, leaving behind red tulips. The red tulip symbolizes Allah (God), while the rose, the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims will often create their gardens to include roses, Hibiscus, Iris, jasmine, lotus, apple and jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) trees, and oleander and pomegranate shrubs. There are three very important celebrations in Islam: Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
Ramadan is the holy month of fasting and is practiced to renew one’s focus on spiritual life and its practical application in daily life. Flowers are a gift that can be presented at an iftar (the sunset meal), with roses being the flowers of choice, especially golden-yellow varieties. Ramadan begins at sunset on March 22 and ends at sunset April 20 or 21 (dates vary) in 2023, and from sunset on March 10 or 11 until sunset on April 8 or 9 in 2024.
Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and the fasting during the light of day. Purple or lavender roses would go well with any Eid celebration, as a gift or a home decoration. The next Eid al-Fitr begins at sunset on April 21 and ends on the evening of April 22, 2023. In 2024, it begins at sunset on April 9 and ends at sunset on April 10.
Eid al-Adha is a bigger event than Eid al-Fitr. This celebrates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail as an act of obedience to Allah’s command. Purple or lavender roses would go well with any Eid celebration, as a gift or a home decoration. In 2023, it is celebrated from sunset of June 28 through to sunset on June 29. Eid al-Adha 2024 begins at sunset on June 16 and ends at sunset on June 17.
Jewish texts compare the Jewish people to a precious flower, worthy of being loved and cherished. “Like the rose maintaining its beauty among the thorns, so is My faithful beloved among the nations.”—from the “Song of Songs 2:2.” Is it any wonder then that flowers are a key part of the lives of those who celebrate Judaism?
Shabbat, or the Sabbath, is Judaism’s weekly day of rest on the seventh day of each week—i.e., Saturday. The day of rest and celebration begins on Friday at sunset and ends on the following evening after nightfall.
Pesach, or Passover, is the first of the three Pilgrim Festivals, a celebration of the Jewish people leaving Egypt and the servitude that preceded it. It celebrates the beginning of the Jewish people and is considered a covenant between God and Israel. It is a solemn celebration, but there is still an opportunity for Jewish households to have flowers, lining the entranceways into their homes and on their Seder tables. Flower types allowed are spring flowers such as cherry blossoms, daffodils, English daisies (Bellis perennis), hyacinths, Iris, lilies and tulips, among others. Pesach is celebrated in 2023 from the sunset of April 5 until nightfall on April 13. The 2024 dates are from sunset on April 22 until nightfall on April 30.
Shavuot, or Pentecost, is the second of the three Pilgrim Festivals of the Jewish religious calendar. Originally an agricultural festival marking the beginning of the wheat harvest, nowadays, a synagogue will be decorated with fruits and flowers. According to the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks, Jews would cook with roses and rosewater and decorate with roses. Celebrated on different dates yearly—the information can be found online—Shavuot lasts for three days. Date: 2023, Shavuot will be celebrated between sunset of May 25 through nightfall on May 27. In 2024, it will start at the sunset of June 11 until nightfall on June 13.
Sukkot is the third of three Pilgrim Festivals, celebrating the Israelites who were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple of Jerusalem. Sukkot was originally an agricultural festival celebrating the fruit harvest but came to be a celebration of the 40 years the Jewish people lived in exile outside of Egypt; hence, a celebration of their dwellings. In modern times, a sukkot—a temporary hut-like dwelling—is to be erected, and four species of plant are to be kept together and waved periodically during this time: an etrog citron (fruit of the Citrus medica tree); lulav (closed date-palm fronds—Phoenix dactylifera or Phoenix canariensis); hadas (leaves from the myrtle tree—Myrtus communis); and aravah (leaves from a willow tree—Salix alba). Other decorations are permitted, and, because of the “harvest” aspect, some people say that dried flowers are acceptable. The 2023 dates are sunrise of Sept. 29 until nightfall of Oct. 6. The 2024 dates of Sukkot are sunset of Oct. 16 until nightfall of Oct. 23.
Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is the celebration of the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem after rising against their oppressors. Celebrations center on a nine-branch candelabrum, known as a menorah or hanukkiah. One of the nine branches is above or below the other eight, and this shammash “attendant” candle is used to light the other eight, one evening at a time. Flowers in blue and white are used during the celebration. Because blue and white are the “official” colors of Hanukkah (also the colors of the flag of Israel), blue and white flowers are the most popular and are considered the traditional holiday colors. Per Teleflora, white Alstroemeria, white and blue Hydrangea, white lilies and white roses are popular Hanukkah flowers. Other options include white carnations and blue Delphinium. This year, Hanukkah is celebrated from the evening of Dec. 18 to the evening of Dec. 26. For the year 2023, it is celebrated from the evening of Dec. 7 through the evening of Dec. 15, and in 2024, it is celebrated from the evening of Dec. 25 through the evening of Jan. 2, 2025.
Baisakhi, a.k.a. Vaisakhi, celebrates the Sikh New Year as well as the founding of the Sikh community in 1699. It was on that date that the 10th Sikh Guru (spiritual leader), Gobind Singh Ji, began the community of Sikhs and gave them their cultural identity. It is the most important festival for the Sikhs. Before its adoption as the founding of the Sikh community, it was celebrated as a harvest festival. It is now a festival consisting of fun, music and dance. For their homes, celebrants like to use colors to brighten rooms, with flowers a typical way of doing it. There are no specific flowers to use except that, on the whole, orange and yellow flowers are most widely used, e.g., marigolds. Vaisakhi is celebrated on either April 13 or 14—April 14 in 2023 and April 13 in 2024.
Bandi Chhor Divas, a.k.a. the Celebration of Freedom, is a celebration of the day that the sixth Sikh Guru, Hargobind Sahib Ji, was released from Gwalior Prison along with 52 Hindu kings. The guru led all 52 innocent rulers to safety without any signs of war or battle back in 1611 or 1612. The words “Bandi Chhor Divas” mean the liberation of prisoners day. Bandi Chhor Divas is celesrated like Diwali, with homes and temples decorated with flowers, feasts, gift giving and family time. Although specifics as to what types of flowers are used are unconfirmed, we do know that golden-yellow and red flowers are a part of the celebration, including marigolds. It will be celebrated on Oct. 12, 2023, and on Nov. 15, 2024.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurpurab is a celebration of the birth of the man who would become the first guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539) who founded Sikhism, a.k.a. Sikhi. Flowers again include golden-yellow and red blossoms. However, add-ons could be Indian sweets, dried fruits and candles (yellow and red). A sacred festival, Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurpurab will be celebrated on Nov. 27, 2023, and Nov. 15, 2024.
Chinese New Year
China has well over 20 holidays or festivals, so we had to narrow things down by looking at the big one, Chinese New Year, perhaps its biggest cultural export to North America (if we don’t include the cuisine). It celebrated by anyone who wants to celebrate, but not everyone understands the rules.
While we might assume that Chinese New Year is like our Western version—a celebration of a single day—it’s not. Chinese New Year is a 15-day celebration, from the eve of the first day of the Lunar New Year through to the end of the Lantern Festival celebrating a full moon—and, as such, the dates float. The celebration is meant to renew the spirit by wiping away the past and welcoming a happy new year with prosperity, good luck and happiness.
While most people tend not to celebrate all 15 days, some do, and for your education, each day is celebrated differently (from chineseamericanfamily.com).
Day 1: Celebration of the New Year.
Day 2: Visiting family and friends.
Day 3: Stay home, because it’s supposedly a bad day to socialize.
Day 4: Worship the Gods with a big dinner and offerings of food, incense and spirit money, to welcome them to your home to ensure that you have that happy new year.
Day 5: Break taboos—where you are now allowed to clean up and empty trash as you welcome the God of Wealth.
Day 6: Send away the Ghost of Poverty—well if the God of Wealth is around, send away the Ghost of Poverty by getting rid of old clothes and or all things unwanted.
Day 7: Celebrate the creation of humans— the goddess Nu Wa is said to have created humanity from yellow clay, similar in how Adam was created from dust on the ground. On this day, people are expected to eat healthy foods to promote long life.
Day 8: Birthday of rice, the staple food of China and all of Asia.
Day 9: Birthday of the Jade Emperor, the supreme deity of Taoism—either a religion or a philosophy where the Tao is the source of everything and the ultimate principle underlying reality. But Taoism teaches the disciplines needed to achieve perfection via self-cultivation.
Days 10-12 are nothing specific—just a time to eat and be merry with family and friends.
Day 13: Nothing specific, except that after all of the eating of foods, this day is meant to eat foods that will ease the digestive system. It’s always a day to go lantern shopping.
Day 14: Decorate the lanterns that you bought yesterday, because …
Day 15: Celebrate the Lantern Festival, the final day of the Chinese New Year celebrations, when lanterns with lights are placed upon a moving waterway, to symbolize letting go of the past. Note that this Lantern Festival is different from the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which is also known as the Lantern Festival in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Know your floral community.
Here are some plants you could consider stocking up on—some better representative of the holiday than others: lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana); money tree (Pachira aquatica); orchids, which symbolize fertility and abundance in the new year; jade plant (Crassula ovata); Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides); and calamondin orange tree (x Citrofortunella mitis), which is considered a good-luck charm of sorts for a “fruitful” new year mostly because “orange” sounds similar to a Chinese-language word for wealth.
The next celebration begins on Jan. 22, 2023—the “Year of the Rabbit,” and Feb. 4, 2024, is the first day of the “Year of the (Green) Dragon”.
Cinco de Mayo
If you know your Spanish, is the annual May 5 anniversary of Mexico’s victory over the Second French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, when a ragtag underdog defeated the better-armed and larger French force. While some celebrants will don Mexican and French battle gear from the 1860s and reenact the battle, almost everyone else takes in the traditional dances, great food, Mariachi music, and colorful dress and decorations. It’s a party, and everyone is welcome.
While celebrants usually create or purchase paper flowers for decorations, the Floribunda rose cultivar ‘Cinco de Mayo’ was introduced in 2009 by Weeks Roses, a rose hybridizer in Wasco, Calif.
Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos
Día de los Muertos is a Mexican-heritage celebration during which family and friends gather to pay respects to and remember those who have died. Not a solemn observance, it’s a celebration of the departed’s life with recollections of funny anecdotes and events. The celebrants create an altar (ofrenda) that they decorate with candles, food, tequila or Mezcal, photos and other personal items of the dead. Oh, and of course, flowers.
Flowers for the ofrenda are usually marigolds (orange and golden yellows), but other flowers are used depending on the region. As such, an ofrenda can also be adorned with cockscomb, Chrysanthemum, Gladiolus, stock and baby’s breath. Day of the Dead is always celebrated on Nov. 2.
Begun in 1966 as a Black cultural holiday, Kwanzaa is an African-American celebration of the values of family, community responsibility, commerce and self-improvement. It is based on Nguzo Saba, the seven social principles: Umoja (unity); Kujichagulia (self-determination); Ujima (collective work and responsibility); Ujamaa (cooperative economics); Nia (purpose); Kuumba (creativity); and Imani (faith).
Each of these principles is represented by a candle in a kinara (a seven-branch candelabrum), with a black candle placed in the center, three green candles on the left and three red candles on the right. Akin to the Judaic celebration of Hanukkah, one candle is lit each day—though, for Kwanzaa, one starts in the center (black candle), and then moves from the far left (green) to the right (red).
Flowers, as you may have guessed, revolve around the Kwanzaa colors of black, green and red. Florists can offer flower arrangements and other floral décor items with these colors, and include fruits and vegetables to surround the kinara. Kwanzaa is always celebrated beginning Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.