Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Snowdrops and Candlemas

It is often said that snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are, or were, associated with Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Purication of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus, 2 February.  Indeed one of the plant’s alternative names is Candlemas bells. Bearing this in mind many, mainly Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic, churches in London were visited from 2 to 6 February 2019, to see if any of them made any use of snowdrops at this time; none did.  What was, perhaps, surprising was the number of churches which were totally devoid of any flower decorations.

Note addded 13 February 2019: It is perhaps worth noting that according to Preston et al., New Atlas of the British & Irish Flora, 2002: ‘This species was known in cultivation in Britain in 1597 but not recorded in the wild until 1778.’ Thus it seems unlikely that snowdrops were used by the pre-reformation church in Britain and Ireland.

Image:  Puttenham, Surrey, February 2019.

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