Lily of the valley plants are flowering perennial known for their bell-shaped flowers and rich sweet scent. Lily of the valley is planted en masse in beds and borders. The plants are also naturalized in prairies, fields and on knolls to form large drifts of plants and blooms. They are sold seasonally in the spring as cut flowers and small potted plants. The lily of the valley is associated with a wide variety of meanings from those celebrating tender emotions and holidays to workers rights, a birth month and religious lore.
Lily of the Valley Florist and Gift Meanings
Lily of the valley flowers are given from one person to another to symbolize purity, a sweet nature, humility, chastity, happiness and the completeness of a relationship. They are also given to celebrate the turning of the season from the cool of spring to the warmth of summer.
Celebrating the Birthday Month of May
Convallaria majalis, as lily of the valley is botanically known, is the official flower of the month of May. It is given and used to celebrate the birth and successive birthdays of people born in the month of May.
Honoring Christian Religious Tradition
Christian religious lore refers to lily of the valley as a symbol of Eve's shed tears over being sent out of the Garden of Eden. The small dripping flowers are thought to represent a line of tears. Lily of the valley is also sometimes referred to as tears of the Virgin Mary or ladder to heaven because its flowers look like staggered rungs on a ladder.
Celebrating May Day in Europe
Lily of the valley is the common flower and symbol used to celebrate May Day in France and throughout Europe on May 1 each year. May Day is a bank or public holiday in many European countries and honors a range of influences from Anglo-Saxon and Christian traditions as well as the beginning of summer.
International Workers or Labor Day
Lily of the valley flowers have been used to connote the celebration and reflection of workers rights and contributions on May 1 festivities in Europe, Australia and the United States. Bunches of lilies were sold in the streets in some cities and individual sprigs of the flower were worn on jacket and coat lapels.