Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day! May Day!

May 1 was once a day of merriment and rejoicing in England. Families brought armloads of flowers and hawthorn boughs in to decorate the houses, and the prettiest girl in town was crowned Queen of the May. Village lads and lasses danced around a tall pole (the May Pole) in the church yard. There was even a huge May Pole on the Strand in London.

By the nineteenth century, however, that pole was long gone, and most villages had forgotten the customs. May Pole dancing has been reduced to no more than a children’s game at best. But the beginning of May was still a lovely time in England. Flowers burst into bloom. The sun shines more often than not. It wasn’t too surprising for young ladies and gentlemen to use those flowers to communicate.

We’ve touched on the Language of Flowers last year on the blog, but I thought I’d pull out a few more entries in honor of May Day. The basic idea is that each flower, and sometimes its bud or full bloom, represents a different concept, and you could communicate with your loved one through your bouquets. The author of the 1883 Collier’s Cyclopedia of Social and Commercial Information waxes poetic on the subject:

“Flowers have a language all their own. . . How charmingly a young gentleman can speak to a young lady, and with what eloquent silence in this delightful language. How delicately she can respond, the beautiful little flowers telling her tale in perfumed words.”

Perhaps you should see what your garden or your bouquet is saying to you with these spring flowers:

  • Cherry blossoms: good education

  • Daffodils: regard

  • Dogwood: durability

  • Bearded iris: flame

  • Blue lilacs: humility

  • Purple lilacs: first emotions of love

  • White lilacs: youthful innocence

  • Red tulips: declaration of love

  • Yellow tulips: hopeless love

  • Variegated tulips: beautiful eyes.

So, does the bouquet on my table of blue lilacs, yellow tulips, and cherry blossoms mean that I have a humble regard for a good education? What else can you make of these?


Marissa Doyle said...

Ah, May Day. My college has a huge annual May Day celebration...Morris dancers, Maypoles, and all! It one of our best loved tradition--here's a link:

Melanie said...

I just came across this blog, and I'm so excited! It's like a really cool history class. Since I really enjoy history, it's perfect. I had no idea flowers were so expressive!

Regina Scott said...

Welcome, Melanie! I don't think you could have given Marissa or me a better compliment. We love history! You'll feel right at home.

Lana said...

A bit off-topic, perhaps, but I love reading this blog. So it seemed a natural choice for the I Love Your Blog award! It's waiting for you here.

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, Lana! We're honored! (She said, blushing.)

Joanna said...

I know this is a bit late, but in the town where I grew up in, they have Victorian Days every year. It falls on the first weekand of May and there are loads of fun things to do. There is also a maypole dance for the little kiddies and a teddy bear tea at noon.
And thanks for the Flower Language. I love learning about the meaning of different flowers. :)