It is no secret the cherry tree and Cherry Blossom Festival hold a special place in the heart of Macon. While the beauty of these trees is evident, the hidden history and significance of the cherry blossom tree makes them even more spectacular.

In Tokyo's Maruyama Park, an ancient cherry tree has held court for more than a century. People flock to the tree in the springtime to partake of the heady scent of the blossoms and admire the beautiful clouds of blossoms while enjoying picnicking and socializing. Cherry trees in Japan are very important to the Japanese people. The brief period of time annually when cherry trees are in bloom is culturally significant and represents a major event in Japanese life. The blossoming of the cherry trees is such an important event that many people take a day off just to enjoy being in the presence of the cherry blossoms in full bloom. They spend the day drinking, eating, socializing, relaxing and making the most of their fleeting experience in this earthly realm. You too, can take part in this special celebration with any of the dozens of events surrounding the festival.

With a history as rich as that of the cherry blossom tree, it should come as no surprise that many meanings are hidden within the pale pink blooms. In China and Japan, the cherry blossom has very different symbolic meanings. In China, it represents the feminine principle, feminine beauty and love. In Japan, it represents life's ephemeral nature. Other symbols include:

  • Newness and Freshness
  • Beginning of Prosperity
  • Love and Romance
  • The Fragility of Life
  • Beginning of Spring
  • A New Generation
  • End of Difficulties
  • Feminine Beauty
  • Joy

While these are just some of the many symbols attributed to the cherry blossom tree, they hold particular significance within Japanese history. Masses of cherry blossoms are cloudlike, romantic, beautiful and very transient. The full blooming of the cherry tree lasts only a couple of days. Because of their quick and impressive beauty followed by sudden demise, Japanese Kamikaze pilots used their image to symbolize their own fatal devotion to Japan during WWII. Each pilot would paint a cherry blossom on the side of his plane to symbolize the intensity and ephemeral nature of life. During this period of time, the Japanese government encouraged the notion that these warriors’ souls were reincarnated in actual cherry blossoms. The Imperial Japanese government has also used cherry trees in much the same way that other imperialistic nations have planted flags in occupied territory. Cherry trees were planted as a way of claiming space. Although the blossoms are ephemeral, a tree is forever!

Special Guest Blogger: Jonathan Leger is a member of the Garden Writer's Association and a gardening enthusiast. You can check out his website where he shares his passion for the unique plants of the world.