Tuesday, 12 February 2008


"Don't eat too many almonds; they add weight to the breasts."
- Colette

Almond blossom, Prunus amygdalis, is the birthday flower for this day. The Hebrew name for the tree is shakad = “awakening”, this in reference to the flowers that are borne before the leaves during late winter. It is the symbol of heedlessness, the flowers not heeding the winter weather that may damage them. The Greeks had a legend about this tree and concerns the Thracian queen, Phyllis. She was the wife of Demophon, one of the Greek kings who went to fight in the Trojan War. She died of grief when her husband failed to return from the War and the gods taking pity on her turned her into an almond tree. When at length Demophon returned, it was winter and when told of his wife’s fate, he embraced the bare tree that she had become. Phyllis was so overcome with joy that she brought forth a profusion of flowers. Virgil commented on the blooming of the almond with reference to the season ahead:

With many a bud, if flowering almonds bloom, And arch their gay festoons that breathe perfume, So shall thy harvest like profusion yield, And cloudless suns mature the fertile field.

A charming poem has been written about the blooming almond tree by Heinrich Heine:

New Spring (1)

Sitting underneath white branches
Far you hear winds are wailing;
Overhead you see the cloudbanks
Wrap themselves in misty veiling,

See how on bare field and forest
Cold and barren death is seizing;
Winter’s round you, winter’s in you,
And your very heart is freezing.

Suddenly white flakes come falling
Down on you; and vexed and soured
You suppose some tree has shaken
Over you a snowy shower.

But it is no snow that’s fallen,
Soon you see with joyful start –
Look, it’s fragrant almond blossoms
Come to ease and tease your heart.

What a thrilling piece of magic!
Winter’s turned to May for you,
Snow’s transmuted into blossoms,
And your heart’s in love anew.

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

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