Camellias became popular in the West after they were brought over from Eastern Asia during the Victorian era. The flower is popular in southwestern China where it grows wild and symbolizes the purest love. As with most flowers, camellias’ colors represent different meanings.
Pure Love and Camellias
Many Chinese associate the two main parts of the camellia -- the petals and the calyx, which holds the petals -- with a young woman and young man, respectively. Just as a young man protects and supports the young woman he loves, the calyx protects the petals. This association also explains the Chinese belief that camellias symbolize pure, devoted love because when the flower's petals fall off, so does the calyx. This characteristic is rare among flowers.
Asia and White Camellias
Although the Chinese associations between camellias and love refer to the flower in general, other parts of Asia hold special beliefs about white camellias in particular. In Korean culture, since 1200 BCE, white camellias have been used in weddings because they symbolize a long and faithful marriage. On the other hand, some people in Japan associate white camellias with death, so giving them to someone during a business meeting is thought to bring the receiver bad luck or worse.
Other Meanings of Camellias
In the West, since the Victorian era, camellias often have been associated with passion and love. Wearing a camellia purportedly helps you find a romantic partner, while giving a small bouquet of the flowers conveys your affection for another person. When making such a bouquet, remember that pink camellias represent longing; red suggests that the person sets your heart aflame, and white means you think the other person is adorable.
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