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"Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spin."
Book of Matthew, VI, 28
Origin & History
The lily's name has pre-classical origins; indeed it was the Greek name leirion and the Roman name lilium from which the name "lily" was derived.
Sentiment & Symbolism
In Christian symbolism the lily represents purity, chastity, and innocence. White lily bouquets are especially popular in Christian homes during the Easter holiday, for they symbolize Christ's resurrection.
Legend tells that the lily sprang from Eve's tears, when upon being expelled from Eden she learned she was pregnant. Other folklore tells of lilies, unplanted by any human hand spontaneously appearing on the graves of people executed for crimes they did not commit. Some believe that planting lilies in a garden will protect the garden from ghosts and evil spirits.
In China, the day lily is the emblem for motherhood. To dream of lilies in spring foretells marriage, happiness and prosperity; to dream of them in winter indicates frustration of hopes, and the premature death of a loved one. The Romans were said to cure corns with the juice from lily bulbs. In ancient Greek and Roman marriage ceremonies, lilies, symbols of purity and innocence, along with wheat, the symbol of fertility, were placed on the bride's crown. Long ago, Spaniards believed that eating a lily's petals would restore someone who had been transformed into a beast back into human form. In medieval times, lilies symbolized feminine sexuality.
On the whole, lilies imply purity of the heart. While lilies come in a variety of colors, most people readily associate lilies with white, meaning innocence and sweetness. The white Madonna lily is considered the special flower of the Holy Virgin, for Christian lore tells that the lily had been yellow until the day the Virgin Mary stooped to pick it. Yellow lilies express gratitude and gaiety.