An Ode to Spring: 20 Quotes to Welcome the Season

Nothing says new beginnings and second chances quite like spring

Ode on the Spring

Lo! where the rosy-bosom’d Hours,

Fair Venus’ train appear,

Disclose the long-expecting flowers,

And wake the purple year!

The Attic warbler pours her throat,

Responsive to the cuckoo’s note,

The untaught harmony of spring:

While whisp’ring pleasure as they fly,

Cool zephyrs thro’ the clear blue sky

Their gather’d fragrance fling.

—Thomas Gray (1716–1771)

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring, that season of warmer weather, flowers blooming, birds returning, and longer days (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). The new season brings a revival of the body and spirit and proof that Mother Nature has this four-season routine on lock.

Writers have long waxed poetic about the bountiful nature of spring and how its arrival signals everything from new life (think: baby chicks and bunnies for Easter) to the dutiful purging of our personal belongings (see: spring cleaning). Shakespeare has paid homage to the season, as have Virginia Woolf, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, and others.

Our positive associations with the season might seem obvious—more daylight, a reprieve from the long winter months, an embarrassment of holidays—but humans’ long love affair with spring has roots in several different cultures and belief systems. The English name itself is believed to have replaced the word Lent, an Old English way to describe the season before the 14th century. Lent is derived from lencten or lengthen; the season’s original name referred to how days begin to lengthen with the arrival of spring.

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Iranian and Chinese cultures, spring marks the real beginning of the New Year according to their respective calendars and is commemorated with a thorough home cleansing to get rid of negativity and lingering spirits. Hence, some believe in the advent of spring cleaning. (Other historians believe spring cleaning is tied to the soot left in 19th-century houses at the end of a winter of kerosene lamps and coal fireplaces.)

In the Jewish tradition, spring marks the annual celebration of Passover, the occasion when persecuted Jews were liberated from slavery in Egypt. It is therefore a time of rebirth and a chance at new ways of being. In the Bible, spring symbolizes a time for growth and renewal; there is an undercurrent of awakening and revival that is tied to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There’s also the philosophical take on spring as a metaphor for life on a grander scale—spring is when new life emerges from the cold of winter, when new ideas and projects begin to take root when we’re allowed to stretch our limbs and turn our faces toward the sun.

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The seasons have been used to describe the stage of growing older: Summer is a time of youth and movement and languishing in sensual delights; autumn turns folks inward as a symbol of maturity and transition; and winter is of course a time for reflection and dormancy, of preparing for deep sleep.

As a result, then, quotes about spring—as opposed to the other three seasons—are largely upbeat, hopeful, and bursting with the language of possibility and vivacity. Philosophers have heralded the return of spring as proof that there is light at the end of even the darkest tunnel and that there is much to learn from nature’s unwavering adherence to the four seasons.

Here, I’ve rounded up some particularly resonant quotes about spring gathered from a wide range of cultural and generational sources proving that our obsession with clean slates and new beginnings, while universal and deeply felt, is nothing new.

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Earth laughs in flowers.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Hamatreya

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

—Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Nobody can keep spring out of Harlem. I stuck my head out the window this morning and spring kissed me bang in the face. Sunshine patted me all over the head.

—Langston Hughes, The Early Simple Stories

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.

—Anne Bradstreet

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom. They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.

—Jim Carrey

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here comes the sun, and I say it’s alright.

—George Harrison, Here Comes the Sun

If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.

—Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.

—Author Harriet Ann Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

—Poet Pablo Neruda

Come with me into the woods. Where spring is advancing as it does, no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.

—Mary Oliver, Bazougey

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

—Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
—Lao Tzu

She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbor: Winter is dead.

—A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where flowers bloom so does hope.

—Lady Lady Bird Johnson

Spring is the time of the year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.

—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations 

What a strange thing! / to be alive / beneath cherry blossoms.

—Kobayashi Issa

April, dressed in all his trim, hath put a spirit of youth in everything.

—William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

An ode to spring © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When April steps aside for May, like diamonds all the rain-drops glisten; fresh violets open every day; to some new bird each hour we listen.

―Lucy Larcom

I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older.

—Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

Poinsettia: The Christmas Flower That Blooms in the Dark

Poinsettia plants (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are popular Christmas decorations and are also the highest selling potted plant in the world

The poinsettia plant (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is the equivalent of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You. You don’t even remember they exist until the first day you walk into a store in November and suddenly it’s the holiday season and Christmas is coming.

And then you’re positively bombarded with them until January 1 at which point Mariah Carey probably gets her giant royalty check for the year (a 2016 study by The Economist found that Carey makes about $2.5m per year for the song and the song had made $60m until that year) and goes on vacation and all the poinsettias just…disappear.

And just like Mariah’s popular Christmas bop, poinsettias are economically important—they’re the highest-selling potted plant in the world. During the holiday season, the six weeks leading up to Christmas, $250 million worth of poinsettia plants—70 million plants—are sold in the United States alone. The plants are even more popular in Europe. There are over 100 different varieties of poinsettia plants patented in the United States.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History of the Poinsettia

Poinsettias were cultivated by the Aztecs and though they didn’t grow in the capital city of Tenochtitlan—now Mexico City—Aztec royalty imported the flowers from lower elevations during the winter months for use as a medicine to control fevers and as a reddish-purple fabric dye.

The Nahua people of Mexico and Central America call these Aztec favorites cuetlaxochitl but they go by many other names, too—lobster flower, flame leaf flower, La Flor de la Nochebuena (Christmas Eve flower).

But poinsettia is probably the weirdest name of all because it’s just a shout-out to the American diplomat who is credited with being the first to bring them back to the U.S. from Mexico in the 19th century. Joel Roberts Poinsett was the first U.S. minister to Mexico and as an amateur botanist is said to have sent some cuttings back to his home in South Carolina from Southern Mexico in 1828 although there is no irrefutable proof of this.

Another Christmas tradition: Pecan Pralines a Sweet Tradition

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is known is that the plant was on display in Philadelphia in 1829, associated with Poinsett’s name. The plant was immediately popular and was known henceforth as the poinsettia although it didn’t receive its official Latin name until 1934 when German botanist Karl Willde was given a cutting by a Scottish friend who had seen it in Philadelphia and named it Euphorbia pulcherrima.

In the 1920s the Ecke family of Encinitas, California started farming poinsettias and they tirelessly pushed them as a symbol of the Christmas season. Today, around 70 percent of the poinsettia plants you buy in the United States come from Ecke Ranch and poinsettia care is their lifeblood.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Caring for Poinsettias

The length of time your poinsettia will give you pleasure in your home is dependent on the maturity of the plant when you buy it, and how you treat the plant. With care, poinsettias should retain their beauty for weeks and some varieties will stay attractive for months.

After you have made your poinsettia selection, make sure it is wrapped properly because exposure to low temperatures even for a few minutes can damage the bracts and leaves.

Unwrap your poinsettia carefully and place it in an indirect light. Six hours of light daily is ideal. Keep the plant from touching cold windows.

Keep poinsettias away from warm or cold drafts from radiators, air registers, open doors, and windows.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ideally, poinsettias require daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures of around 55 degrees. High temperatures will shorten the plant’s life. Move the plant to a cooler room at night, if possible.

Check the soil daily. Be sure to punch holes in foil so water can drain into a saucer. Water when soil is dry. Allow water to drain into the saucer and discard excess water. Wilted plants will tend to drop bracts sooner.

Fertilize the poinsettia if you keep it past the holiday season. Apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month. Do not fertilize when it is in bloom.

With good care, a poinsettia will last 6-8 weeks in your home or RV.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to keep a Poinsettia alive

Every houseplant—even a hyper-seasonal one—is kept alive somewhere year-round. Poinsettias hail from the mid-elevation regions of Mexico and Central America where they can grow over 10 feet tall as a perennial winter-flowering shrub with milky sap and branches so long they sometimes look like vines.

The big, showy red, white, or pink flowers we’re used to seeing aren’t actually the poinsettia’s flowers at all, but modified leaves called bracts. The flower buds are the small yellow buds in the middle of the colorful bracts.

Another Christmas tradition: The Holiday Season Favorite Veggie: Sweet Potato or Yam?

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you buy a poinsettia at the grocery store it comes already sporting its brightly colored, fancy bracts. You have no idea how hard it was to get them there. Fritz Bahr, the author of Fritz Bahr’s commercial floriculture: a practical manual for the retail grower (1937), described the delicate and finicky poinsettia thusly: “Perhaps no other plant or flower we handle during Christmas week is more short lived, wilts quicker, or is more disappointing to those who receive it; yet, when the next Christmas comes around, there comes again the same demand for poinsettias and the disappointments of a year ago are all forgotten.”

Over time, floriculturists overcame some of these problems but until the mid-1950s, growing poinsettias and getting them into the hands of Christmas revelers in relatively good shape was a real trick. That was, until somebody realized poinsettias need just one thing to turn their green bracts red, pink, or white: total darkness.

In order to induce your poinsettia plant to create flower buds and to change the color of its leaves from green in time for Christmas, it must be kept in complete darkness for 16 hours per day. The witholding of light prevents the plant from producing chlorophyll which is what makes plant parts green. This changes the bracts to red, pink, or white, depending on the variety of poinsettia.

So, somewhere around September 21—right around the fall equinox—pull your poinsettia out of its sunny window and move it into 16 hours of uninterrupted darkness (put the plant under a box if necessary to provide total darkness), alternating with 8 hours of bright light every day.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the dark period, the plant cannot receive even the slightest bit of light at any time. This applies to your year-old poinsettia as well: If you want your plant to produce flower buds again and to change color, it’s the daily length of complete darkness, not bright daylight that matters most. Discontinue this around Thanksgiving.

Another Christmas tradition: O Christmas Tree, Don’t Fall Off my SUV

After Thanksgiving, keep your poinsettia in bright light or the full sun of a sunny window, not keeping the potting soil moist or adding excess water but watering it when the well-drained soil is dry to the touch. Poinsettias prefer temperatures around or above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. They will bloom from Christmas until about April—at this point, it’s a good idea to cut your poinsettia down to a 3- to 8-inch stem and let it regrow starting the process over again until the next year.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are Poinsettias poisonous to pets and children?

One common urban legend about poinsettias is that they’re toxic to people and animals. One Ohio State University study showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat over 1 pound of poinsettia leaves—between 500 and 600 leaves—for toxicity to become a problem. However, they certainly don’t taste very good and the child who ate them would probably get a terrible tummy ache long before they were poisoned.

The milky sap of the poinsettia is another matter. Most members of the Euphorbia family have toxic sap but the toxin in poinsettias is very mild. However, those with sensitive skin should avoid touching poinsettia sap, just in case.

Worth Pondering…

Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities in the world.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The History of Valentine’s Day and How It Became a Lucrative Holiday

Americans will spend nearly $26 billion on Valentine’s Day despite inflation and recessionary risk

Valentine’s Day occurs every February 14. Chocolates, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and where did these traditions come from? Find out about the meaning and history of Valentine’s Day from the ancient Roman ritual of Lupercalia that welcomed spring to the card-giving customs of Victorian England.

Roses overlooking Okanagan Lake near Kelowna, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where did Valentine’s Day originate from? The history of the holiday and the story of its patron saint are shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance and that St. Valentine’s Day as we know it today contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman traditions. But who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

Chocolates for Valentines? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first valentine greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl—possibly his jailor’s daughter—who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed from your Valentine, an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and—most importantly—romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial which probably occurred around A.D. 270 others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to Christianize the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

Chocolates for Valentines? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Pagan holiday of Lupercalia is described by History as “a bloody, violent, and sexually charged celebration awash with animal sacrifice, random matchmaking, and coupling in the hopes of warding off evil spirits and infertility.” No one knows the exact origin of Lupercalia but it has been traced back as far as the 6th century B.C.

Its true Valentine’s Day uses some of Lupercalia’s symbols intentionally or not such as the color red which represented a blood sacrifice during Lupercalia and the color white which signified the milk used to wipe the blood clean and represents new life and procreation.

Like many ancient traditions, there’s a lot of haziness surrounding the origins and rituals of Lupercalia and how they influenced Valentine’s Day. Lupercalia is no longer a mainstream holiday.

Chocolates for Valentines? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity but was outlawed as it was deemed un-Christian at the end of the 5th century when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance. The English poet Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to record St. Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic celebration in his 1375 poem Parliament of Foules, writing, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” Hence the phrase, love birds!

Chocolates for Valentines? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages though written Valentines didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.)

Who Is Cupid? Cupid is often portrayed on Valentine’s Day cards as a naked cherub launching arrows of love at unsuspecting lovers. But the Roman God Cupid has his roots in Greek mythology as the Greek god of love, Eros. Accounts of his birth vary; some say he is the son of Nyx and Erebus; others, of Aphrodite and Ares; still others suggest he is the son of Iris and Zephyrus or even Aphrodite and Zeus (who would have been both his father and grandfather).

Chocolates for Valentines? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the Greek Archaic poets, Eros was a handsome immortal played with the emotions of Gods and men using golden arrows to incite love and leaden ones to sow aversion. It wasn’t until the Hellenistic period that he began to be portrayed as the mischievous chubby child he’d become on Valentine’s Day cards.

In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th it was common for friends and lovers to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology.

Chocolates for Valentines? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures known as scrap.

Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year (more cards are sent at Christmas). 

Sweets for Valentines? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In modern days, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for businesses to arouse feeling of romance to convince people to spend money to express love.

Americans are expected to shell out roughly $25.9 billion on Valentine’s Day marking one of the highest spending years on record despite inflationary pressures and the looming possibility of a recession according to a survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Chocolates for Valentines? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The average lovebird will spend $192.80 on their significant others marking a 10 percent increase from $175.41 last year and the second-highest figure since the group began tracking spending on the holiday nearly two decades ago. Roughly $14 of the $17 rise in spending per consumer will be used for pets, friends, co-workers, and teachers.

Valentine’s Day shopping peaked in 2020, one blissful month before the depths of the pandemic began with a record $27.8 billion spent.

Chocolates for Valentines? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Candy (56 percent), greeting cards (40 percent), and flowers (37 percent) are the most popular gifts. Around 31 percent state they plan to go out this year up from 24 percent in 2021 which should add $4.3 billion to the recovering hospitality sector. Around 22 percent said that they plan to purchase jewelry and the NRF predicts $6.2 billion will be spent marking the highest amount spent on jewelry in the survey’s history. These figures only represent what will be spent in the U.S. but Valentine’s Day is celebrated by consumers across the world.

Worth Pondering…

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

―Charles M. Schulz