Cherry blossom is one of the most beautiful heralds of spring, which is a time of renewal, of all the foliage and the fresh green colors bursting through the dead leaves winter has left behind.
While they symbolize spring as that’s when they bloom, they also embody a fleeting period in life, as their beauty and bloom time is very short-lived.
Depending on the type of cherry blossom, they usually bloom during a 4-week window, which varies from year to year, dictated by how wet, warm, or frosty the weather has been.
The flowers are at their best for two weeks of the year. Once they fall, the sea of blossom is a show in itself, carpeting the ground in pink or white petals.
What is a Cherry Blossom?
Cherry blossoms are miniscule pink or white flowers that bloom on cherry trees in spring.
These are ornamental trees, which they’re grown for the blossom they produce, and don’t produce fruit after the flowers have died. They’re also planted near fruit-bearing trees to attract pollinators and boost the amount of fruit these trees produce.
Some varieties produce a fragrance, as if their dramatic display wasn’t enough on its own!
Cherry blossom trees are part of the Prunus genus. Other plants in this genus include almond trees, fruiting cherry trees, plum trees, nectarine and peach trees.
The blossom trees are native to Asia, and grow naturally in India, South Korea, and China, though their beauty has meant that they’re now grown all over the world.
What does a Cherry Blossom Flower Symbolize?
Cherry blossoms have a particularly interesting meaning, though they mean different things in different countries.
In China, they’re a symbol of femininity, strength, power, and love.
In Japan, the display that cherry blossoms put on every year is celebrated, and has influenced poetry, art, and film for countless years.
Some believe that the cherry blossom is a metaphor for human existence and the beauty of life, as while they are stunning, they’re only around for a short time.
What does Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Mean in Japan?
In Japan, cherry blossoms are part of the calendar. They bloom in April, which is also when the school year and the fiscal year begins.
It’s also the national flower of Japan, while the Chrysanthemum is the seal of the Imperial family.
Cherry blossom flowers are a symbol of positivity, and people celebrate the blooming season with parties, a custom called “hanami”, which goes back thousands of years.
It’s believed that the custom started in 710-794 in the Nara period, which celebrated the ume blossoms of the plum tree. The Heian period in 794-1185 saw the rise in popularity of admiring the sakura, the cherry blossoms.
The term nearly always refers to the cherry blossom season, and translates to “flower viewing”, celebrating the beauty of transient flowers.
People gather beneath the blossoming trees, and celebrate the new year and the fresh start it brings. These parties are also held at night, and those are called “yozakura”.
They also tie into Buddhist themes of living in the present, remembering mortality, and staying mindful.
The cherry blossom season is a powerful image which is emotionally moving, but it’s also admired because it’s so short-lived. It’s believed that the cherry blossoms are a reminder to pay attention to life, as it is now, as it won’t be exactly the same again.
As fallen cherry blossoms are still a sight to see in themselves, these also have a particular symbolism. They represent fallen warriors, particularly samurai, and the end of a year, and the start of a new one.
In World War II, Japanese pilots painted their kamikaze planes with images of cherry blossoms to signify how life was fleeting, and how ready they were to die for their cause.
They no longer embody military associations, but they’re valued for their beauty and philosophical ideals.
As the cherry blossoms come back year after year, the flowers also symbolize renewal, and the renewal of hope for a brand-new year.
The Cherry Blossom Symbolism in the United States
In the US, cherry blossoms stand for peace, and tranquility. In 1912, in an effort to restore friendship and establish political alliances, Japan gifted more than three thousand cherry blossom trees to Washington, D.C.
A festival is held each year when the cherry blossoms bloom, representing serenity, and harmony between nations.
What does a Tattoo of a Cherry Blossom Symbolize?
Tattoos of cherry blossoms symbolize much the same as the trees themselves. They embody the impermanence of life, the importance of renewal and new beginnings, and the beauty in nature.
The image of a cherry blossom is also a reminder to enjoy the beauty in life while you are here, to love, and stay connected with nature and your surroundings, no matter the season.