If you have an event such as a christening, birthday or wedding, for which flowers are an appropriate gift or decoration, there is a way you can invest your chosen flowers with some added meaning. Flowers have been given as gifts and used in celebrations for centuries. For example, in Roman time’s birthday celebrations were associated with the gods, each of whom ruled over a particular month, so perhaps these were the origin of the symbolic use of flowers to represent a particular month. Birth-month flowers are part of the language of flowers, and as such can be used to add extra symbolism and meaning to their uses. So, in order to make your floral gift even more meaningful, why not send your loved one a birth-month bloom, together with a little passage about the flowers traditional meaning and myths, and what that person means to you. If you are planning the floral design for a wedding, researching the birth-month flowers might suggest a unique and interesting floral design for the event.
Depending on the month, different types of flowers may be associated with a particular personality or gift. Whilst these traditions vary from country to country, here are few ideas to get you started, and a little information about some of the myths and cultural stories relating to each flower:
The carnation has a rich symbolic and botanical history. A widely cultivated flower, the carnation was mentioned by Greek botanist Theophrastus over 2000 years ago and has been bred into a wide variety of styles. Carnations can represent any number of emotions and meanings depending on their color. In Christian mythology, the carnation is connected to the grief of Mary as Jesus was made to carry the cross: as her tears fell, carnations sprung from the ground. Pink carnations in particular symbolize a mother’s undying love. However, they are also used to express fascination, appreciation, and in the deepest shades of red, deep and passionate love.
The iris is another flower rich in history and meaning. Its memorable three petals have most famously been depicted in the Fleur-de-lis: a symbol of cities and countries throughout history, each petal representing faith, hope, and wisdom. In mythology, Iris was the Ancient Greek messenger of the gods, with the flower being the personification of rainbows, and a connection between man and god. Its many colors make this an expressive and impressive gift for all February babies!
Who could fail to associate March with Daffodils, the flower so closely tied to signs of life in Spring and Easter. Indeed, the German word for daffodil is Osterglocke which translates as ‘Easter Bell’. The daffodil is an extraordinarily varied flower, with many different species and varieties. In Ancient Greece, the daffodil was associated with the myth of the vain youth Narcissus (the genus name for daffodil), who gazed at his reflection until he died, whereupon daffodils sprang up in his place. However, a gift of daffodils does not imply the receiver is vain, the more common meanings associated with this bloom are chivalry and romantic love. In Chinese culture, the flower symbolizes wealth and good fortune. Daffodils are also associated with a 10th wedding anniversary.
April’s birth flower symbolizes innocence, was believed to have originated from a dryad who ruled over meadows and pastures and is used as the symbol of Freya, the mother goddess. The Daisy was also mentioned by Chaucer in the prologue to The Legend of Good Women. The custom of pulling the petals off the flower and recounting ‘he loves me, he loves me not’s each petal is removed started in the Victorian era.
The white lily is closely associated with purity and particularly with female purity, and has been across various religions and eras. In Ancient Egypt the lily was linked to Ishtar, the virgin goddess of creation and fertility. In Ancient Rome and Greece, the flower was linked of the queen of the gods (Hera/Juno). The lily is an important symbol associated with the Virgin Mary, and can be seen depicted in paintings of the Annunciation, the announcement by the Angel Gabriel to Mary of her miraculous conception, often held out by the Angel towards the Blessed Virgin.
Even more than the carnation, the rose is a flower that carries many different meanings according to its color, and has symbolic associations in mythology, particularly with goddesses, beauty and love. It is a flower often used symbolically in poetry, heraldry, sport (English Rugby) and politics (the red rose is especially associated with socialism across Europe, and the white rose with a movement of non-violence in Germany during WW2). Lesser known facts are that in many pagan mythologies the wild rose repels undead creatures (such as vampires or ghosts), and in Scotland if a white rose blooms in Autumn it indicated an early marriage.
This tall stemmed flower, also known as the Larkspur, has been used extensively in herbal medicine and because of its use against eye disease is connected to the patron saint of good eyesight, Saint Odile. In Transylvanian folklore it is said to ward off witches if planted near stables. The flower’s symbolic meanings are generally those of joy and levity.
Unlike many flowers which are associated with joy, love, romance or even chastity, Gladiolas are frequently connected to myths involving violence and bloodshed. The latin name for the Gladiola is Gladiolus, meaning diminutive sword, which seems to refer to the sword-shaped leaves of this long-stemmed bloom. Due to this association, the flower is commonly thought to symbolize strength of character.
The origin of the name Aster is ‘star’ in Ancient Greek, which refers to the star-like shape of the flower’s head. The Aster is linked to a variety of myths and legends, from Ancient Greece to Cherokee Indians, and was generally believed to hold magical properties. More recently, the flower holds an interesting political connection to the Hungarian Revolution of October 1918, which became known as the ‘Aster Revolution’ because protestors wore this flower.
The Calendula (also known as the Marigold) is an important flower to spiritual celebration in South East Asia, often being used in garlands and the decoration of places of worship. Calendulas are cultivated extensively in India and Thailand, where they are used for religious festivals, and wedding celebrations. In Mexico the flower is used in celebrations for the Day of the Dead festival, and in the preparation of anise-flavored medicinal tea.
First cultivated in Asia as a medicinal herb (and used as a tea), the chrysanthemum is an important flower in Chinese and Japanese culture. Indeed, in the 8th Century, the Emperor of Japan took the bloom up as his own official emblem. Although the flower has often been associated with death, in Western and Eastern cultures, it is also linked to honesty and is traditionally given on Mother’s Day in Australia.
Poinsettia, sometimes known as The Christmas Star, is commonly used for the celebration of Christmas. Indigenous to Central America and Mexico, the Aztecs used to make red dye and the flower is known as ‘Christmas Eve’ (Noche Buena) in Mexico and Guatemala. The Poinsettia’s connection to Christmas started with the legend of a poor young girl’s gift of weeds to commemorate Jesus being transformed in beautiful red flowers in 16th Century Mexico, and the plant’s leaf pattern is thought to symbolize the star of Bethlehem.
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