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Cherry Blossom Meaning and Symbolism

cherry blossoms

Before you buy flower arrangements, do you like to know what the blooms mean? Although cherry blossoms don’t end up in bouquets, these iconic flowers have a lot of meaning and symbolism.

Also known as sakura, Japan’s national flower is a cultural icon revered worldwide as an expression of life, death, and renewal. Keep reading to learn more about cherry blossom meaning and symbolism.

What Are Cherry Blossoms?

Cherry blossoms are flowers from the genus Prunus trees. Each spring, these dainty blossoms bloom in hues of white and pink in Japan; Washington, D.C.; Macon, Georgia; and various countries around the world, including Canada, France, Australia, Brazil, Spain, Germany, and Turkey.

While cherry blossoms technically grow on cherry trees, varieties grown for their edible fruit tend to have less showy flowers, and those grown for spectacular blooms tend not to bear edible fruit.

What Do Cherry Blossoms Symbolize?

Since cherry blossoms are one of the shortest-lived flowers – only blooming for a couple of weeks each year – they represent renewal and the fleeting nature of life in Japan. Due to the bloom’s extreme popularity in Japan, this is one of the most widely accepted meanings of cherry blossoms, but it’s not the only one.

In China, cherry blossoms are linked to sexuality and the beauty of women and are sometimes associated with women’s ability to dominate using their appearance.

Although cherry blossom festivals are controversial in South Korea due to tense relations with Japan, the flower is considered a symbol of purity and beauty in the country.

Beyond each culture’s unique symbolism for the blooms, cherry blossoms generally represent rebirth, renewal, new beginnings, and the start of spring.

Significance of Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Nobody personifies the metaphor of cherry blossoms embodying beauty and mortality more than the samurai.

These warriors lived by a strict moral code of honor, respect, and discipline called bushido – the way of the warrior. Their duty was to embody these virtues while appreciating the inevitability of death without fearing it. It was believed that a fallen cherry blossom symbolized the end of their short lives.

Japanese pilots in World War II embraced a similar meaning of cherry blossoms when they painted their kamikaze planes with the blooms before going on suicide missions to “die like beautiful falling cherry petals for the emperor.”

While cherry blossoms are no longer embraced for self-destructive or military purposes, their philosophical and aesthetic value remains. Sakura retains its symbolism as a new beginning in Japan since its blooming coincides with the start of the new fiscal year each April, when children go back to school and employees often start new jobs.

The Ritual of Hanami

Hanami – meaning “flower viewing” in Japanese – is a traditional custom dating back to the 8th century involving enjoying cherry blossoms’ (or other flowers’) beauty. Whether you sit alone under a cherry blossom tree and enjoy your favorite drink or you gather with dozens of your friends and family, hanami is a time to reflect on how lovely and short life really is.

At night, hanami transforms into yozakura – “cherry blossoms at night” – a romantic way for couples to appreciate the blooms, often by lantern light.

Cherry Blossom Fun Facts

Itching to learn more about cherry blossoms? Here are some fun facts:

  • Japan sent 3,020 cherry blossom trees to Washington, D.C. in 1912 as a gift. These trees (or their descendants) still fill the National Mall with pink blooms every spring.
  • Japan originally sent 2,000 cherry blossom trees to the United States in 1910, but they were burned after being found to carry insects and disease, nearly causing a diplomatic crisis.
  • Cherry blossoms are edible, with a subtle taste, and are a popular component of a variety of Japanese foods and drinks.
  • Washington, D.C. holds the National Cherry Blossom Festival every year from mid-March to mid-April, when the trees are in bloom.
  • It’s illegal to pick flowers from cherry blossom trees in Washington, D.C.
  • Peak bloom for cherry blossoms in the United States is typically around April 4.
  • In 2018, the largest ever LEGO brick cherry blossom tree was built in LEGOLAND Japan; it was 14 feet tall, weighed over 7,000 pounds, and was made from over 800,000 LEGO bricks.
  • Cherry blossom trees likely originated in China’s Himalayan Highlands before making their way to Japan around 1,100 years ago.
  • The “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World” is actually in Macon, Georgia, which has more than 350,000 cherry trees.
  • A park in Amsterdam has named each of its 400 cherry blossom trees – half have female names and half have male names.
  • Traverse City, Michigan produces 40% of the U.S.’s tart cherry crop from over 2 million cherry trees.
  • There are more than 430 varieties of cherry blossom trees, with the Yoshino variety being one of the most popular.
  • Wild black cherry trees can grow to be 80 feet tall and 60 feet wide. Ornamental cherry trees are smaller, averaging a maximum height of 25 to 50 feet.
  • George Washington didn’t chop down a cherry tree. The famous tale was added to the fifth edition of one of his biographies to portray him as a virtuous role model.
  • While cherry blossoms are most commonly pink, they can also be white.

Cherry Blossoms Featured in Films

Can’t get to Washington, D.C., Japan, or another location with cherry blossoms? Check out these movies that heavily feature the beautiful blooms:

  • Gohatto (1999)
  • Eros + Massacre (1969)
  • Uzumasa Limelight (2014)
  • Miss Oyu (1951)
  • The Makioka Sisters (1983)
  • Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees (1975)
  • The Cherry Orchard (1990)
  • Late Spring (1949)
  • Let Me Eat Your Pancreas (2017)
  • Dolls (2002)
  • April Story (1998)
  • Our Little Sister (2015)
  • Sweet Bean (2015)

Learn More or Send Flowers Today

If you love learning about flowers, you may be interested in the meaning and symbolism of daisies or the meaning and symbolism of irises.

Once you’re done reading and understanding what the various flowers mean, be sure to send flowers to your loved ones for all occasions.

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