Tulips originated in Central Asia, and became very popular in Turkey. The tulip’s name comes from the Persian word for turban, because in full bloom tulips have a turban-like shape.
Tulips commonly mean perfect love. The meaning of perfect love is tied to Turkish and Persian legends about the love between Farhad and Shirin. There are a few variations of this tale. According to one story, Farhad was a prince. He was in love with a beautiful girl named Shirin. Unfortunately, Shirin is murdered, and this tears Farhad apart. In desperation, Farhad rides his horse off a cliff, and a red tulip grows where his blood touches the ground — the symbol for perfect love.
In another version, Farhad is a stone cutter and Shirin is a princess. He tries to win her over and she rejects him, so he goes to the hills to play music to honor her. When she learns this, she falls in love with him. However, her father isn’t pleased that she’s fallen in love with a commoner, and tasks him with digging a giant canal to prove his love.
After years, Farhad nearly finishes the canal, so Shirin’s father sends a courtesan to convince Farhad that Shirin is dead. He is so distraught that he takes his life. When Shinrin learns of this, she goes to find him and takes her own life to be with him. Red tulips grow where their blood hits the ground as symbols that their love will last forever.