Calla lilies, also known as zantedeschia or arum lilies, are tropical flowers.  They have been popular throughout the ages for weddings, funerals and other festive events.  What makes them so popular?  

What is the meaning of calla lilies?

Tropical flowers have always been popular for special occasions calla lilies are no exception.

What's in a name?

The word 'calla' comes from the Greek language and means 'beauty'.  The story goes that Zeus wanted his wife Hera to breastfeed his (but not her) mortal son Hercules so he'd get divine powers.  When Hera noticed that the infant was feeding whilst she had been sleeping, she pushed him away.  Her milk sprayed into the sky and thus the Milky Way was created.  From the drops that landed on earth grew white calla lilies.

Strictly speaking, calla lilies aren't actually part of the lily family but arum plants.  That doesn't mean much to the non-botanis so we'll leave it at that.  The name 'zantedeschia' comes from an Italian botanist who did much to further our knowledge on the flower.

What does the calla lily symbolise?

Symbolism changes throughout the ages and different cultures attribute different meanings to the same flower.  Whilst the Romans and Sigmund Freud saw the calla lily with its characteristic piston as a symbol of lust and sexuality, Christianity identifies the Virgin Mary with a white calla - a symbol of chastity, faith and purity.  Indeed, the Angel of Annunciation is sometimes painted with a white calla flower.

The white calla has been traditionally used at weddings, white standing for the purity of the bride.  But you'll also often see a broken calla lily on a tombstone, meaning 'the one who went before his or her time'.  Here, the symbol is of youth and rebirth.  The reason this meaning is given to the flower is probably because it blossoms most profusely in the Springtime, the time of rebirth and a new beginning.

 

Do the other colours have meanings, too?

Yes.  Whilst white calla lilies are generally associated with purity, innocence and rebirth, pink calla lilies are associated with love, romance, happiness and gentleness.  The pink calla is the colour of youth.

Purple calla lilies convey the feeling of royal dignity, accomplishment, admiration and tradition.

Yellow calla lilies are for joyful occasions and friendship.

Orange calla lilies are full of energy, confidence and a passion for life.