The Joy and Pain of Yellow Flowers

Blooming dandelions.

It is May 1, and this day, as a child, meant bringing home a little paper pocket to be hung on the door, filled with flowers for my mother.  Of course, as I child I had never heard of the historical ramifications of May Day, and now,  living in Seattle it is the synonymous with anarchists and riots.  But as many things, back then was a more innocent time, and I looked forward to plucking flowers along my walk home to fill my little pocket.

The most common “flower” of my May bouquet was, of course, dandelions.  Anyone living in the Northwest will tell you their sunshine-y little heads will often be the first bit of light after a gray winter, and the last things to succumb once late fall rolls around again.  But as a child I loved them.  I loved they bright color, their oh-so-soft heads, their not-exactly-perfume scent.  They were little suns to me, bright and beautiful and perfect.  And my mother was very gracious in accepting these weeds as the true gift they were intended.

As I got older, and understood the negative connotation of “weed” versus flower, I turned my back on my once favorite flower.  But gray Seattle winter was still meant to be broken by yellow, so I switched my allegiance to another yellow bloom, daffodils.   It had never occurred to me that bright little sunshines I so cherished were harbingers of  unhappiness in other parts of the world.  The warmth and cheerfulness that attracts me to yellow flowers is not a global trait, but rather one of culture.

Here, in the United States, in the language of flowers, yellow means “I miss you.”  In many Central and South American countries, yellow flowers are reserved for funerals.  In fact, in Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations, yellow flowers are very prevalent.  In Japan, yellow roses are known to symbolize jealousy. In Iran, giving yellow flowers is an insult, communicating that you hate the recipient.



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