Over the last year I have been posting about customs and traditions from each month, which has been really interesting. May was my first customs and traditions post, so I thought I’d try a year of focussing on ‘birth flowers’ each month. I will be posting about their meanings, customs, traditions and anything else interesting I find out about them.
The custom of birth flowers, and indeed birthdays themselves, is thought to have originated from Roman times. Romans would celebrate the birthday of each Roman God, placing flowers on their altars. They also gave flowers as a part of their gifts for family birthday celebrations. However, flower symbolisation itself can be traced back as far as ancient China.
Flowers were also important during the Victorian era where they became a way of conveying meanings, using symbolisation instead of having to tell someone how they really felt which they weren’t always very good at doing! The Victorians are said to have placed as much importance on flowers as they did to how someone was dressed!
The birth flower for May is the Lily of the Valley, its real name is Convallaria Magalis which translates as ‘that which belongs to May’.
Over the centuries it has taken on many meanings. It’s main meaning is sweetness and humility, due to it being small in stature with a preference for the shade. To the Victorians it meant ‘return of happiness’ and in religious terms the flower is associated with biblical Eve by Christians.
Eve’s tears were said to have turned in to lilies of the valley after she was expelled from the Garden of Eden, because of this the flower also has associations with purity and chastity. Apparently it is mentioned fifteen times in the bible and also used in religious ceremonies.
In folklore the lily of the valley is said to be used to keep evil spirits away from gardens and as a charm to ward off witch spells! It is also thought to be the favourite tipple of fairies, who drink from the tiny petal cups. So now you know what to do if you see any fairies or witches lurking in your garden! In ancient China they used it for medicinal purposes, believing that adding it to their remedies would help to bring good luck.
Lily of the Valley is also a popular wedding flower, with some brides traditionally having the flower as the fifth item after something borrowed, something blue, something old and something new.
Here is an interesting Telegraph article (albeit from 2004!) about how to grow Lily of the Valley, just in case you feel the need to do so after reading this, or find some thirsty fairies in your garden!
I have also found this YouTube video of how to make a Lily of the Valley wedding bouquet. There is also a little write up underneath about how William and Kate used a lot of Lily of the Valley at their wedding!