Tansel Bahat knows all too well what it means to be unable to afford even a single rose on Valentine’s Day. The florist, who lives in the eastern province of Elazığ, still remembers the day he had no money to buy flowers for his girlfriend while he was a university student. So, he decided to help out others in the same situation. On Valentine’s Day, he launched "flowers on the hook" campaign in his shop. The scheme is inspired by "bread on the hook," a more popular tradition that involves bakeries giving away free loaves of bread to anyone in need paid for by other customer's donations.
Unlike the bread tradition, the florist does not charge customers to help him give away flowers. Instead, Bahat stocked flowers of all kinds in a large basket in front of his shop. A sign next to the basket reads "flowers on the hook for Valentine’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day!"
"Back in my school days, I felt so sad that I was unable to buy a gift for my girlfriend. So, I decided to give away flowers for those who cannot afford them. Anyone can pick a flower from here," he told Ihlas News Agency (IHA) on Monday. The florist’s shop is situated across from a university in a busy part of the city. "I know students may not be financially well-off. This is not something to embarrass them but rather to help them," he said.
Mertcan Marat, who picked a rose for his girlfriend from the basket, said he noticed the sign as he passed by the shop and appreciated it. "This is a beautiful gesture. I have seen people giving away bread or clothes this way but it is the first time I see it done for Valentine’s Day," he said.
Valentine’s Day is marked with enthusiasm in Turkey with couples exchanging gifts and retailers offering discounts on every possible gift, from consumer electronics to food. Flowers, particularly roses, are among the most popular gifts. A single red rose is sold for prices starting from around $2 (TL 30). Some prefer to buy diamond rings, which are sold for prices starting from $132 (TL 1,800).
Spouses seeking unusual gifts can buy an "adoption certificate" from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), paying for the conservation of endangered species, from sea turtles to pandas. Others are willing to pay up to nearly $13,000 (TL 176,000) to secure the title of "Lord" or "Lady" by acquiring land from Scotland’s Glencoe. Some pay up to $110 (TL 1,500) for a yacht trip below the bridges over the Bosporus as messages of love specifically written for partners are reflected via laser on the bridges.