I ventured out to buy some simnel cake today, taking my camera with me in the hope of seeing some flowers. There’s lots of winter pansies huddled bravely on neighbours’ windowsills but they don’t count. I’m after some spring flowers, Easter flowers!
The daffodils are just about to bloom but there’s no Wordsworth gold as yet. I know there are snowdrops and crocuses too but they are buried under a layer of snow that refuses to melt even in the sunshine.
Back home with my simnel cake I look through my archives to see which flowers are most associated with Easter. I think Lilies top the list. I remember seeing enormous bunches of them in the church back home, their white petals standing out against the red of the damask on the wall. Their perfume was so heavy it used to make us kids dizzy.
According to legend, the first Easter lilies sprang out of the ground as Jesus walked across Joseph of Arimathea’s garden after the resurrection. They’re shaped like bells, ready to peel out the good news! The smaller lily-of-the-valley was formed out of the tears, Jesus’ mother shed under the cross.
The humble forget-me-not too has its own little piece of folklore. According to first century hagiographers, Jesus spotted the flower in the Garden of Gethsemane the day before the crucifixion. He smoothed out its pale blue petals and begged, ‘forget me not, forget me not’, so giving it its popular name.
Yet another flower legend is told about the daffodil, which is sometime called the Lent or Easter Lily. It was in full bloom when Jesus arrived for his last supper with the disciples. Seeing he was scared and apprehensive of the night to come, it glowed to cheer him. Jesus touched the flower and its shape changed to resemble that of the cup, the chalice, he was about to drink from.
I don’t remember seeing daffodils in church at Easter when I was a child. Perhaps because of Wordsworth’s famous poem, I always assumed they were native to Britain. In fact it turns that daffodils are originally Mediterranean flowers, brought to Britain by the ancient Romans. Those Romans always feature in the best stories. Felix Pascha!
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