Snowdrop Flower (Galanthus) Meaning and Symbolism

This resilient and beautiful flower is the gateway into spring. It’s essentially a neon sign shouting “WINTER IS OVER”.

When this plant flowers, you might breathe a little sigh of relief — the sun will be out for slightly longer every day, and the temperature will surely rise, and the days will get longer.

Before you know it, your garden will be full of life and brimming with spectacular color. If that’s not a worthy message for a flower to carry, I don’t know what is.

What does ‘Snowdrop’ Mean?

If you separate out the name, the meaning becomes clear. “When the snow drops”, when the weather gets warmer — at the first sign of spring, this beautiful little flower blooms.

It often emerges from snow-blanketed ground, and the blooms look as though snow is dripping off the top of the plant.

Other common names, which have mainly fallen out of use, include the fair maids of February, Candlemas bells, and white ladies.

Another potential root meaning for ‘snowdrop’ is the archaic word for earring, which was ‘eardrop’, which was the style from 15th-17th centuries when the fashion was in favor of tear-drop-shaped earrings.

The scientific name, Galanthus, is a relatively small genus in the Amaryllidaceae family. The name itself is derived from Ancient Greek, which translates as “milk flower”.

The full name, Galanthus nivalis, translates to “milk flower of the snow”.

What do Snowdrop Flowers Mean?

While you can get some autumn-flowering snowdrops, the most famous version is the spring-blooming plant.

Like most early-flowering spring flowers, the snowdrop is symbolic of renewal and resilience, as it survives the harsh conditions of winter and blooms at the first sign of the weather easing.

This lovely, petite flower is a symbol of hope. No matter how hard things are or will be, there is always hope, and nothing absolutely terrible lasts forever, no matter how bad things seem.

This flower has some ties with spiritual symbolism, as well as being associated with rebirth and purity, thanks to its brilliant white blooms.

What’s the Cultural Significance Behind the Snowdrop?

In the Victorian language of flowers, snowdrops stand for hope, as they are a sign of spring.

However, the symbolism isn’t all positive. During this time, snowdrops were bad luck, a sign of death.

The reason for this is that snowdrops often grow in cemeteries, and to pick one and bring it into your home was very bad luck, as it was believed to invite death and misfortune into the home.

This meaning has evolved over the years, as plant symbolism often does. Any connotations of death have a more positive light these days of consolation and life after death.

In the story of the Garden of Eden, the flower became a symbol of hope. Some versions tell that Eve’s tears as she was banished from Eden grew as snowdrops.

Another version had an angel materialize snowdrops when Eve feared that winter would last forever, as a sign of hope and renewal.

In Moldovan legend, the snowdrop creation happened in the battle between Lady Spring and the Winter Witch.

The Winter Witch decreed that winter would last forever, and Lady Spring obviously took offense to this.

During the fight, Lady Spring’s blood hit the ground, and where it melted the snow, a snowdrop grew, signalling her victory.

What does a Snowdrop Flower Tattoo Mean?

Snowdrop flowers incorporated into tattoos have a very symbolic meaning. They represent resilience and adaptation to change. They can symbolize an event or a person who has given you a renewal or a rebirth of sorts.

When Should You Give Someone Snowdrops?

Snowdrops are lovely flowers which do carry a lot of symbolism, and they are appropriate for many occasions, though, they are usually bought as a whole plant or as part of a bouquet.

It’s worth noting that in many parts of the world, collecting wild snowdrop bulbs is illegal, as they are endangered in quite a few places.

The snowdrop is the birth flower of January, along with the Carnation, so it’s an apt gift for anyone who has a birthday in this month.

It’s also a good gift for someone who is having a rough time, where there is no fix for a situation they are in.

It’s a symbol of perseverance and hope, and a message that you’re there for them if they feel you can help.

Snowdrops also contain natural antifreeze, and no matter how horrible the weather, they most likely perk up when the temperature warms.

Once the temperature reaches 50°F, which is when the bees come out of hibernation, the outer petals open to make the nectar accessible. This is also interesting because this plant is a symbol of renewal, and no matter how tough things are, they will ease up eventually.

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