Wattle Day is celebrated in Australia on 1 September. It is the nation’s only unique holiday that reflects local nature.
The tree has important meaning for the First Nations peoples of Australia. For Wurrundjeri, when the Muyan, or silver wattle, blooms it is a time when the greatest Elders “pass over”. The blossoms that fall into the Yarra River also provide food for the eels. From the east of Victoria, as Gunaikurnai Elder, Uncle Wayne Thorpe explains, “In pre-spring, when the silver wattles are blooming and people from across Gunaikurnai country are gathering for marriage, the water ribbons and wildflower tubers are full, the ducks and swans are laying eggs and the fresh water wetlands would be teeming with life.”
Wattle is important for other ancient peoples. In Egyptian mythology, the flower was associated with the goddess Nut and Isis. She was believed to be the sky that stretched over the earth to protect it and all life on it. Since the Acacia tree had an umbrella-like shape that offered shelter, it was naturally linked to such a symbol. The Greeks also assigned it similar meanings, with an Acacia at Heliopolis known as the Tree of Life and Death.
There is a longstanding custom in Hebrew history, where Acacia trees were often panted over the graves of family members or those who were incredibly close to the deceased. The acacia tree is one of the trees mentioned in the Bible and it was believed to be the source of wood used for building the table of the tabernacle as directed by God to Moses. The directions for the Ark were inscribed on the wood of the Acacia tree. Some scholars think that the Tree of Life and the Burning Bush were both Acacia, as mentioned in the Bible.
Acacias in Nepal and Tibet became popular for use in multiple ways in religious rituals. In Buddhism, the tree and its flowers are also symbolic of Tara, the female bodhisattva known as the “Mother of Liberation”. It’s often meditated on to focus on the traits of kindness and compassion. It was also a wood commonly chosen for carving Buddhist statues due to its fine grain and fragrance.
For the Victorians, acacia flowers symbolised sophistication and wit. It could also be sent to symbolise a strong friendship with someone and an appreciation for their support. In countries like Italy, a day is set aside to present the acacia flower to their loved ones as a sign of eternal love between them.
That wattle is acclaimed as the first flowering plant to resume flowering in Hiroshima’s bomb-ravaged zone. As such, it is famous in Hiroshima as a poignant symbol of hope of regeneration.
Thanks to Aishah David for mapping this feature. Image: Patrica Gardner, Wattle We Do, on Wattle Day, 2015, Photograph, 1200 x 937 pixels, photo: Patricia Gardner..
Stroll around Wattle Park…