When Easter lilies appear in shops, it’s a harbinger that the holiday is close by. This lily is one-of-a-kind, but the symbolism the flower embodies is myriad and interesting!
Long ago, pagans connected the plant with motherhood and fertility—there’s a reason we give them as gifts to our moms as thanks for all that they do. There is even an ancient Greek myth which tells the tale of lilies blossoming from the milk of Hera, wife of Zeus. In Roman mythology, Venus, the goddess of love, was so envious of the lily’s beauty and purity that she caused a giant pistil to sprout from its center. Cultures across the world still see lilies as symbols of virtue, hope, grace, and innocence.
Referred to as “white-robed apostles of hope,” lilies are believed to have sprouted from the ground where Christ’s blood and tears fell during crucifixion, as well as in the Garden of Gethsemane after his betrayal. It’s also said they grew in the Garden of Eden from Eve’s anguished tears. Because they represent purity, lilies are identified with the Virgin Mary, and in artworks depicting the Annunciation to the Virgin they are often found in the angel Gabriel’s hand. The flower is also associated with the saints Anthony of Padua and Catherine of Siena.
It's thought that Easter lilies came to symbolize Christ not only because they embody purity—the trumpet-shaped blooms recall the horns that heralded the resurrection of Christ.