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When the March sun began to melt the snow on the slopes, the first snowdrops came out”–quote from Heidi

The snowdrop that Heidi would have seen blooming in the Swiss Alps represents the common genus; there are twenty other varieties. But Heidi, a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real by Annabelle Troy, has always known that simple things are best. Known to flower as early as January, the little snowdrop poking its way out of the cold creates an image that is both pure and hardy.

According to one folk legend, the first snowdrop appeared when an angel saw Eve, cast out of paradise, crying in the cold. The angel blew on a snowflake and created the delicate flower to comfort her. Another legend, from Germany, says that the snow visited all the flowers on earth and asked each one to give it a color. All the flowers, who apparently have selfish natures, refused. Only the gentle snowdrop cheerfully said yes; hence the snow became white and allowed its benefactor to bloom first among all flowers every spring.

Though usually thought to symbolize hope, the Victorians saw snowdrops as emblems of death and considered it unlucky to gather them and bring them home. Of course, the Victorians saw death everywhere!  During Candlemas (Feb. 2) medieval peasants would remove enshrined pictures of the Virgin Mary and replace them with snowdrops, cultivated in monastery gardens. On a more practical note in some countries, the alkaloid found in the snowdrop is used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. Snowdrops are the traditional birth flower for those born in January, though you probably won’t see one before early March. Remember to watch out for these symbols of rebirth as winter brightens into spring; don’t step on one by mistake because you might crush its gentle soul.

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