The Crocus and other symbols of early spring

Many people have different definitions for the beginning of spring. For some, Imbolc is the first day of spring, for others it is spring equinox. For some, it’s marked by a holiday like Easter or Spring Day. When I lived in a forest just outside of Nashville as a child, I always heard the first day of spring was the first day you saw a robin. I’ve also heard from others that it should have been a bluebird. Since moving to the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area, I have begun noticing more winter robins, which has created some confusion in me. Are northern robins genetically different or are suburban robins behaviourly different? It doesn’t really matter as my new family doesn’t measure spring in birds; we measure it in flowers.

In the north, it is common to see crocuses before you’ve even seen much grass, though we ourselves seem to have a later blooming variety that enjoys taunting my wife on an annual basis. Further south, where I’m originally from, crocuses could technically grow but were quite uncommon. Early tulips were usually the first flower, and it was usually agreed that spring had started by the time you saw a blossom out of them. For this reason, it is common here to hear an agreement that the crocus is the first sign of spring. (Though there are still many differing opinions on what “the official first day” is, as mentioned above.)

One of my first introductions to the crocus was an internet friend in Alberta who was using that as their handle at the time. Though they usually go by a different name now, the crocus still makes me think of them. They are a very positive an upbeat person despite having plenty of life issues that make that hard. They find reaching for light and positivity even when it’s hard is fulfilling for them, and I find them quite inspiring. They’ve made it their mission to nurture and protect, one of their biggest weak points is putting others before themself.

That’s quite like the crocus in my opinion. The crocus is the first to brave the snow, even over other native “weeds.” Often, late frost doesn’t bother them the way it does other delicate flowers; they simply drop their frost-damaged petals and try again. (Not all varieties do this, mind, but I’ve seen it enough.) They are small, beautiful, and decievingly delicate in appearance. Their blooms last only a few days, though the green parts remain for the rest of the year, feeding their small bulbs. They are the first bee forage of the year. And they’re also very useful plants, as bulb plants are good for breaking ground, they provide early bee forage as I mentioned, they have fiber adequate for paper in a pinch, and their bulbs can be eaten. Saffron is actually the stigmas of a warm-climate fall-blooming crocus. While northern crocuses are less flavourful, I’ve heard tell they can still be used for dye.

Why go on at length about crocuses in a post that’s supposed to be about correspondences for the early spring season? Because I consider them one of the best symbols of early spring, especially in climates where snow and ice rarely fully thaw in winter. It takes advantage of the first bit of remotely reliable warmth, and of ice finally starting to break, and blooms before anyone else can. It spreads light and beauty, like the early spring sun, only briefly but with impact. It brings hope of the agricultural year to come and assurance that winter won’t bring us any more harm.

My family celebrates Crocus Day as the first day of spring by putting up fake crocuses in our indoor decorations (Okay, they’re mini purple tulips, but you try finding a fake crocus at the craft store.) and baking lavender-coloured cupcakes. We then send our friend an Instagram message telling them we’re happy for their visit to us 😜 It’s a small celebration, but it’s fun, and we don’t mind sharing. In a community where the agricultural-based holidays of the Wheel of the Year are commonly celebrated, I think Crocus Day is a good way to stay in touch with local seasonality, though I don’t expect anyone to send our friend Instagram messages as part of their own celebration.

All that said, here are more symbols and concepts that Kendra & I correspond to the beginning of Spring. We would love to hear comments on what you associate with early spring!

Early Spring Correspondence List :

Colours: lavender, butter yellow, grassy green, pastels in general, white is still applicable
Plants: crocuses, early tulips, grasses, Siberian squill
Stones: opal, pearl, amethyst, rose quartz, aquamarine, jasper
Flavours & Scents: floral, maple syrup, milk, butter, anything “clean-smelling”
Concepts & motifs: sunshine, clearing clouds, melting snow, sheep, returning of birds

(Note: lavender blooms a bit later, but it’s a good colour, scent, and flavour for the season and easy to access, so don’t feel wrong about using it)

Activities for Early Spring celebrations:

  • Make butter!
  • Bake using maple syrup or make some pancakes
  • Bake using flowers
  • Use floral scents around the house *
  • Make bright decorations, especially incorporating florals and bright or pastel colours
  • Make &/or enjoy cupcakes
  • Make &/or enjoy angel cake
  • Spring cleaning! Especially using your broom to ritually sweep out all the bad. *
  • Honestly, I feel like this is a much better time to make resolutions and change habits. I’m too depressed in mid-winter to think so positively.

* recipe or instructions will be posted soonish