Lilac Story & Origins
Lilacs have a deep-rooted history originating in ancient Greek mythology. It was said that Pan, the god of forests and fields was hopelessly in love with a nymph named Syringa. One day he was pursuing her through a forest and, afraid of his advances, she turned herself into a lilac shrub to disguise herself. To Pan’s surprise, he could not find Syringa, but he did find the shrub. Because a lilac shrub consists of hollow reeds, he cut the reeds and created the first pan pipe. The scientific name for lilac is Syringa vulgaris, and the name is derived from the Greek word “syrinks” which means pipe.
The common name, lilac, was borrowed from the French and Spanish word of the same name. Similarly, the Arabic word for this flower is “lilak”. The word lilac refers to the light purple color of its flowers.
The meaning of the lilac flower has diversified throughout the ages. Lilacs originated in Southeastern Europe and are a popular part of the Mediterranean culture. They are frequently associated with the Easter holiday, which occurs during the peak of its bloom time.
Lilac meanings vary throughout different cultures and time periods.
- The Celtics regarded the lilac as “magical” due to their incredibly intoxicating fragrance.
- During the Victorian Age, the giving of a lilac was meant to be a reminder of an old love. In fact, widows were often seen wearing lilacs during this period.
- In Russia, holding a sprig of lilac over the newborn would bring wisdom.
- In the United States, the lilac is the official state flower of New Hampshire and represents the ‘hardy’ nature of its people.
Lilac Symbolism & Colors
Because lilacs have one of the earliest bloom times, they symbolize spring and renewal. Lilacs also symbolize confidence, which makes them a traditionally popular gift for graduates. There are many meanings that lilacs have that can best be classified by color.
- White lilacs symbolize purity and innocence.
- Violet lilacs symbolize spirituality.
- Blue lilacs symbolize happiness and tranquility.
- Magenta lilacs symbolize love and passion.
- Lilac, the color for which this flower is named, is a light purple that symbolizes a first love.
Although various colors of lilacs have different meanings, the lilac has always had a strong association with love and romance throughout history.
Lilac Cultural Significance
Lilacs have been a source of inspiration for artists throughout history. Impressionists Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet both have famous works depicting the beauty of lilacs in their paintings. American poet Walt Whitman, uses the lilac in his famous poem, “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d”, as a symbol of life after death in a narrative depicting Abraham Lincoln’s last days
- The lilac is the official flower of a couple’s 8th wedding anniversary.
- Lilacs have one of the shortest bloom times and only flower for three weeks at the beginning of spring.
- Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had an affinity for lilacs and grew them in their gardens.
- Lilacs belong to the same family as the olive tree.
Due to their pleasant fragrance, lilacs have become a popular ingredient in perfumes and cosmetics. When used as an essential oil, they have been known to treat skin disorders, combat bacterial and fungal infections, prevent stomach disorders, and act as a fever reducer. In aromatherapy, lilacs can help fight depression and increase relaxation.