Rich with symbolic meaning, lily of the valley flowers crop up in art, literature, religious traditions, and springtime celebrations. With their delicate blossoms, lilies of the valley are perfect for celebrating weddings and May birthdays and for saying goodbye to loved ones. Interestingly, it was also the late Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite flower. In this guide, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about the Lily of the Valley flower meaning, its history and origins, its uses and benefits, and its cultural significance around the world today.
- Lily of the Valley Flower Meaning – Key Takeaways
- Etymological Meaning
- The Cultural Significance of Lily of the Valley Flowers
- Modern Meaning and Symbolism of Lily of the Valley Flower Colors
- Lily of the Valley in Myths and Folklore
- The National Flower of Finland
- Lily of the Valley in the Victorian Language of Flowers
- Lily of the Valley Flowers and Astrology
- Lily of the Valley in Weddings
- Lily of the Valley in Spirituality, Religion, and Funerals
- Lily of the Valley in Art and Literature
- Suitable Gifting Occasions for Lily of the Valley Flowers
Lily of the Valley Flower Meaning – Key Takeaways
Lily of the Valley flowers symbolize good luck and joy, purity, innocence, humility, youth, and discretion in the language of flowers. They also hold symbolic meanings culturally in European springtime celebrations and Christian traditions worldwide.
Convallaria majalis comes from the Latin words for “valley” and “May.” The common name “lily” comes from the plant’s original classification as a member of the lily rather than the asparagus, plant family.
The Cultural Significance of Lily of the Valley Flowers
Depending on when and where you look in history, you can find references to lily of the valley flowers and their symbolic significance in cultures worldwide.
Modern Meaning and Symbolism of Lily of the Valley Flower Colors
Most commonly, the lily of the valley flowers bloom in a crisp white, and all lily of the valley flowers take on the symbolism of white lilies of the valley.
However, the Convallaria majalis var. rosea species of lily of the valley, blossoms with flowers that blush in a delicate shade of light pink or light purple. These flowers have additional symbolic significance due to their different colors.
White Lily of the Valley Flower Meaning:
Most importantly, the White Lily of the Valley flowers represent happiness and the return to joy. They also symbolize purity, sincerity, youth, humility, and discretion. Given their cultural significance worldwide throughout history, the white lily of the valley flowers have myriad additional symbolic meanings.
Pink Lily of the Valley Flower Meaning:
In flowers, pink can represent love, femininity, compassion, admiration, and understanding.
Purple Lily of the Valley Flower Meaning:
In addition to symbolizing royalty and rarity, the purple lily of the valley flowers also symbolizes passion, dignity, accomplishment, pride, and success.
Lily of the Valley in Myths and Folklore
Lily of the Valley Flowers has a rich tradition in mythology and folklore stories worldwide.
Ancient Greece and Rome
In ancient Greek and Roman mythology, it is said that the god Apollo, created the lily of the valley to carpet the area of Montparnasse so that his nymphs would have a soft and sweetly scented groundcover to walk upon. This is where the lily of the valley gets one of its common names, Apollinaris.
In Serbia, the Lily of the Valley is called St. George’s Flower (Djurdjevak) and is picked on St. George’s feast day. The people then decorate their homes and adorn themselves with blossoms to bring good luck, fertility, and prosperity to their people, livestock, and crops.
May Day in France, Europe, and Other Parts of the Western World
In 1561, King Charles IX received lily of the valley flowers as a gift for good luck for May Day on May 1st. Each year following, he continued the tradition by gifting Lily of the Valley bouquets to the women in his court for good luck.
Today, the people of France still honor this tradition, and lily of the valley flowers are worn, used as decoration, and can be purchased from flower stalls everywhere to celebrate the coming of spring with good luck.
This tradition is also honored in other European countries. For example, the lily of the valley is also used in celebrations of the Gaelic May Day festival, Beltane.
The National Flower of Finland
The Lily of the Valley is the national flower of Finland. It represents the country’s natural beauty and connection with the Nordic landscape and is often seen as a symbol of the onset of spring.
During the popular midsummer festivals (known as Juhannus in Finnish), the celebrations often include the decoration and adornment of homes, saunas, and festive areas with the Lily of the Valley alongside other local flowers and birch branches.
Like in many other cultures, the Lily of the Valley symbolizes purity, freshness, and rebirth. It reflects the country’s pristine nature and its people’s resilience.
Lily of the Valley in the Victorian Language of Flowers
In the tradition of the Victorian language of flowers, a prevalent form of communication and symbolism in literature and art created during the era, the lily of the valley represented sweetness, humility, and the tears of the Virgin Mary.
Lily of the Valley Flowers and Astrology
People who fall into the Gemini zodiac sign are adaptable, curious, and quick-witted. They are represented by two symbols: the twins and the planet Mercury. Geminis are gentle yet firm when they need to be, making them excellent communicators.
The adaptable yet gentle spirit of Gemini makes the lily of the valley a perfect flower for this group. Typically, this flower represents purity, sweetness, and innocence. It’s a small, bell-shaped bloom that can signify hope and new beginnings.
Lily of the Valley in Weddings
Legend says that the lily of the valley’s sweet fragrance helps to lure nightingale birds to their mates. This has made the blossom a popular choice for wedding bouquets, and many brides carry it as the fifth item of good luck in the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” list.
In Holland, newlyweds plant lilies of the valley in their gardens to bring good luck and help renew their love throughout the years.
Lily of the Valley in Spirituality, Religion, and Funerals
Lily of the Valley has a prominent place in Christian traditions. The flower is mentioned several times in the Bible, most often in the Song of Solomon. It’s often associated with the second coming of Christ, as a representation of hope.
With its white, pendulous blossoms, the lily of the valley flowers is often thought of as a symbol of tears. They represent the tears cried by Eve after being expelled from the Garden of Eden and Jacob’s tears.
Most commonly, the flowers represent the Virgin Mary’s tears shed at Christ’s crucifixion that was said to have sprouted lily of the valley flowers where they fell to the ground at the foot of the cross. This is where the common names Our Lady’s Tears or Mary’s Tears come from for lily of the valley flowers.
Due to their association with May and Mary, May crowning ceremonies are often celebrated on May Day with the crowning of Marian statues with wreaths of lilies of the valley.
Given the flower’s strong association with tears and mourning, they are popularly incorporated in sympathy and funerary bouquets.
Lily of the Valley in Art and Literature
These delicate flowers appear frequently in art and literature, rich with symbolic meaning. The folk impressionistic painter, Marc Chagall featured them in his 1916 painting, Lilies of the Valley. The flowers also carry heavy symbolic weight in the poem “The Lily of the Valley” by Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Lily of the Valley Flowers
From the Latin, Convallaria majalis, translates to “valley lily of May,” making the lily of the valley the official birth flower of May and for celebrating special occasions in the month of May.
Lily of the Valley Flower FAQs:
What Regions are Lily of the Valley Flowers Native to?
Lily of the valley is native to the temperate regions of Europe and Asia and has become an invasive species in North America.
When Are Lilies of the Valley in Season?
Lilies of the valley bloom in spring and summer.
What are the Primary Uses and Benefits of Lily of the Valley Flowers?
Due to its extreme toxicity, the lily of the valley has no known medicinal or culinary uses.
Lily of the valley is primarily used for ornamental purposes. However, it’s also prized for its fragrance, making it popular in perfume production and a strong attractor of pollinators.
What do lily of the valley flowers smell like?
Lily of the Valley flowers have a strong, sweet fragrance that’s often imitated in perfumes.
Why is it called lily of the valley?
Convallaria majalis was initially placed in the lily plant family and later moved to the asparagus family, which is why it’s referred to as a lily. In Latin, “convallis” means “valley” – hence the valley portion of the plant’s name.
Do lily of the valley flowers come back every year?
Lily of the Valley flowers are perennials, meaning they return each year.
Are lily of the valley flowers easy to grow at home?
Lilies of the valley are easy to grow as long as they don’t receive too much sunlight.
Pretty Flowers and Strong Symbolism
These delicate flowers and all their rich symbolic meaning can be easily enjoyed at home in a cottage garden or a May Day floral bouquet.
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