These delicate teardrop-shaped flowers are a welcome sight on a grey winter’s day but they are full of positive symbolism too.
Also known as Fair Maids of February, Mary’s Tapers, Snow Piercer, White Ladies, White Purification, White Queen and Dingle-dangle, the snowdrop symbolizes hope and new beginnings.
Snowdrop is a common name for a number of species of the genus Galanthus. The common name of the plant comes from its white, teardrop-shaped flowers which often appear while the snow is on the ground. They have a light fragrance and their nectar provides much-needed winter food for bees.
Traditionally flowering in late January and February, this late winter bloomer is a harbinger of Spring. Snowdrops represent the hope that winter will soon be over and warmth will return to our lives.
It is believed Snowdrops help overcome feelings of despondency and instil new confidence and mental courage. They are said to help us shed emotional pain and grievances and create a new opportunity for happiness.
There are several folklores and traditions associated with Snowdrops. February 1st or 2nd is Brigid’s Day in tribute to the Irish Goddess Brigid. It is also the ancient Celtic festival of Imbolc, celebrating the beginning of Spring. The name comes from an even older word ‘oimelc’ meaning the milk of the ewe, therefore associated with the pure colour white. It is a day for physical and spiritual spring cleansing. Later the date was adopted by Christians and dedicated to St Bridget.
The Snowdrop is also associated with the Virgin Mary and Candlemas on 2 February. Candlemas or the Feast of White Purification is a Christian festival remembering Mary’s purification in the Temple at Jerusalem forty days after the birth of Jesus Christ. Snowdrops were later used as church flowers and were usually planted around the old monasteries.
The Snowdrop is also mentioned in German folklore. According to the legend, when God created the earth, he asked the flowers to give some of their colour to the snow. All the flowers refused, but the Snowdrop mercifully gave the Snow its colour. In return, the Snowdrop was given permission to bloom each year before all the other flowers. From then on, the Snow and the Snowdrop became best friends.
One of the most popular stories of Snowdrops is a Christian tale of creation. When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden into a land of winter where no flowers blossomed and no birds sang, the angel took a handful of snowflakes and blew them. When snowflakes hit the ground, they sprang up into amazing white flowers – Snowdrops. After that, these beautiful flowers became a symbol of hope and empowerment for the future.