Okay, let's get one thing out of the way before we start. The popular garden flower that we know is the lily of the valley is NOT what is meant in the Bible when it uses this phrase. It's a popular misunderstanding but now we've cleared that one up what does folklore tell us about these pretty and dainty late spring flowers?
More than I can fit into one blog that's for certain!
The most common legends link the flowers to the tears shed by either Eve as she left the Garden of Eden or by Mary during the crucifixion and reflect the way the flowers hang downwards. It is often seen in paintings of Mary as it symbolised the qualities of humility, purity and devotion.
While those are legends, the flower has a strong link to the month of May as the second part of its Latin name, Convallaria Magalis, means flower of May.
So when is it a good time to give lilies of the valley and what are the meanings of this beautiful, shy and strongly perfumed flower?
Traditionally it has several meanings, purity, youth, sincerity, discretion, humility (and these are the meanings that are often used symbolically in religious paintings), however the most popular today meaning today is happiness and the return of happiness which is why it is so popular for brides and weddings.
It's not just about brides though, in France and Germany flowers are sold on 1 May as a good luck charm and in other countries they given as a gift to celebrate the birth of the baby, and as the flower of the month for May, lilies of the valley make a great gift for anyone celebrating a birthday this month it fresh flowers, bulbs or jewellery.
One very important thing to be aware of though is that although there is some tradition of using part of the flowers in herbal remedies this is really not a good idea as all parts of the flower of very poisonous and so if you have young children is a good idea not to grow lilies of the valley where they may be playing.
That's all for now, next time the story of St Leonard, the Dragon and the Lily of the Valley!