Snowdrop Stories & Folklore

Several years ago, while living in Scotland, I was grumpily jogging through the dark and bitterly cold morning, trying to convince myself that the torture of running in Scottish winter was a worthwhile pursuit. It was a path through forest I had taken several times a week, but suddenly I stopped in my tracks. The ground was covered with what I had originally mistaken for drifts of snow, but was instead a carpet of snowdrops. They had sprung up over night and I was in awe. I had heard of these remarkable flowers, but seeing their sheer defiance against the elements of winter gave me a simple spark of hope and motivation to continue towards spring.

Snowdrop jewelry with foliage

Each year, the snowdrop rises through the frozen winter ground. It defies the bleak midwinter and brings hope that spring will come again. While they most often flower in early February, it is not unusual to see these lovely florals anytime between December and March. With 20 species and over 700 varieties of galanthus it has a series of common names: Snowdrop, Milk-Flower,  Candlemas Fells, Fair Maids of February, and many more. These flowers are native to Europe and the Middle East.

My grandmother was an avid gardener. I remember growing up and spending hours in the garden with her each spring and summer as a child learning about hundreds of different flowers. She died in 2015, leaving behind a legacy of floral love and red lipstick, yet no one could maintain the garden quite like she did. So you can imagine my surprise three years ago, after moving into the small cottage that my grandparents had built when they first married in 1950, to discover snowdrops blooming among the trees near our driveway in February. It was a little message of love from my grandmother and her green thumb and I naturally burst into tears which promptly froze on my face.

As such, my love for this little snow droplet has grown exponentially, but I am not the first to find it a flower filled with hope and love. Its origin legends are varied and stunning. The snowdrop praises have been immortalized by countless poets. I would like to share a few of these with you and hope it sparks your own journey to love this tenacious little flower.

Flower Fairy Books

Many tell of its start in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve were banished from the garden and sent into the bleak world, an angel came to escort them from the garden. As the angel descended from the realms above droplets of ice and snow gathered in the angels palms. Saddened by the task of forcing them to leave the garden, he blew upon the snowflakes in his hands. Each snowflake warmed and grew into a white petaled flower with a drooping head. As the angel placed his hands on the shoulders of Adam and Eve to lead them from the only home they had ever known, these droplets of snow became flowering bulbs to go with them into the new world.They were to be symbol of hope in a dark wilderness, that God's light and love would come again into their lives.

In Germany the legend is a bit different. When the Creator asked one of his beautiful flowers to lend their color to a new creation called snow, none were willing to share their color except the little white flower. Its willingness to share created a bond and a promise between this flower and the snow, allowing the flower to be the first to bloom beneath the snow. Snow and Snowdrop became good friends for years to come. 

Another legend from Romania, tells the story of sun's rays reaching down in the form of a girl named Spring to chase away Winter. Winter devised a plan to capture Spring and hide her away in his thick-walled castle to keep his reign upon the land. When the people noticed that Spring had not come, they nominated a hero to come and save her from winter's clutches. The young hero battled with Winter, managing to set Spring free. As Spring ran to escape, she kissed the young hero, named Martisor, distracting him just long enough to allow Winter to slay him. As his blood fell, it melted the snow from the ground and brought forth a little flower, as pure as his love for Spring.

To honor this brave hero's sacrifice for Spring's freedom, countries throughout Easter Europe celebrate Martisor bravery on March 1st. They give snowdrop brooches tied with a red and white string to each other. These handmade gifts are worn throughout the month of March and then tied to the early flowering trees of spring to bring good luck to the harvest.

Hans Christian Andersen also famously wrote about "The Snowdrop" in the Danish version of the origin story. A battle of words and might between the sunbeams, the snowdrop, and the winter winds ensues. I loved this little interaction between the sunbeams and the snowdrop: 

“Beautiful Flower!” said the Sunbeams, “how graceful and delicate you are! You are the first, you are the only one! You are our love! You are the bell that rings out for summer, beautiful summer, over country and town. All the snow will melt; the cold winds will be driven away; we shall rule; all will become green, and then you will have companions, syringas, laburnums, and roses; but you are the first, so graceful, so delicate!”
That was a great pleasure. It seemed as if the air were singing and sounding, as if rays of light were piercing through the leaves and the stalks of the Flower. There it stood, so delicate and so easily broken, and yet so strong in its young beauty; it stood there in its white dress with the green stripes, and made a summer. But there was a long time yet to the summer-time. Clouds hid the sun, and bleak winds were blowing.
“You have come too early,” said Wind and Weather. “We have still the power, and you shall feel it, and give it up to us. You should have stayed quietly at home and not have run out to make a display of yourself. Your time is not come yet!”

 

While there are many more stories of the snowdrop out there, I hope that you have been given a small glimpse into why we love this little flower.  It seems so fitting to find different ways to appreciate it during this time of year. We recently this stunning handmade floral jewelry that we will be sharing throughout the year.  The snowdrops have quickly become a favorite that we are so happy to share with you. Or perhaps you love our little German Flower Children heralding the seasons with such aplomb. 

I want to leave you with one last poem, penned by Mary Darby Robinson, an English actress and poet entitled 'Ode to the Snowdrop':

The Snow-drop, Winter’s timid child.

Awakes to life, bedew’d with tears,

And flings around its fragrance mild;

And where no rival flow’rets bloom,

Amid the bare and chilling gloom,

A beauteous gem appears!

 

All weak and wan, with head inclin’d,

Its parent-breast the drifted snow,

It trembles, while the ruthless wind

Bends its slim form; the tempest lowers,

Its em’rald eye drops crystal show’rs

On its cold bed below.

 

Poor flow’r! On thee the sunny beam

No touch of genial warmth bestows!

Except to thaw the icy stream

Whose little current purls along,

Thy fair and glossy charms among,

And whelms thee as it flows.

 

The night-breeze tears thy silky dress,

Which deck’d, with silv’ry luster shone;

The morn returns, not thee to bless,

The gaudy Crocus flaunts its pride,

And triumphs where it’s rival - died,

Unsheltered and unknown!

 

No sunny beam shall gild thy grave,

No bird of pity thee deplore;

There shall no verdant branches wave;

For spring shall all her gems unfold,

And revel ‘midst her beds of gold,

When thou art seen no more!

 

Where’re I find thee, gentle flow’r,

Thou still are sweet, and dear to me!

For I have known the cheerless hour,

Have seen the sun-beams cold and pale,

Have felt the chilling wint’ry gale,

And wept and shrunk like thee!

 

Mary Robinson (1758-1800)

 

February 11, 2022 — Chelsey Newbould

Comments

Susan Evans McCloud

Susan Evans McCloud said:

Beautifully, tenderly presented. Thanks for the love and work contained in sharing this. An extra enrichment which you graciously provide which I, and I hope many others, appreciate!

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