Olive trees have been an important part of human culture for thousands of years. Olives symbolize the Mediterranean, food and drink, family, and celebrations. The “olive branch” in particular symbolizes peace and hope for future prosperity. The Olive Branch Petition was an attempt at peace by the colonists after the start of the American Revolution.
Olive trees have a lot of symbolism. They are worthy of a whole page on this website.
Olive branches themselves have special meanings. From Noah in the Bible to major events in American History, they are full of symbolism. Let us dig in!
Noah Finds Out It Is Safe
Doves and olive leaves have a lot of religious meanings.
Their importance goes back to an early biblical story. Noah was in his ark, a great flood taking place, rains falling for forty days and forty nights. He sent out a dove, but the dove had no place to land. Noah later tried again. The dove came back with an olive leaf in its mouth.
It was safe to land. Olive trees were a symbol of plenty in the Ancient Middle East, their fruit providing food and oil. An olive branch or leaf was a symbol of all of these things.
Olive trees are mentioned repeatedly in the Bible and the Qu’ran (the holy book of Muslims). The olive branch has special meaning for all three monotheistic religions.
Celebration: Games and Marriage
The symbolism of life, plenty, and peace gives olive branches special meaning.
An olive leaf crown, a wreath, was placed on the heads of winners of the Olympic games in Ancient Greece. Olive branches remain a symbol of abundance and glory.
The celebratory and peaceful nature of olive wreaths is also shown by their use in weddings. Olive branches today provide a taste of the Middle East, even if the couple is taking their vows far away from their homeland. But, anyone can use olive branches to celebrate their big day.
Symbol of Peace
The sight of a dove with an olive leaf in its mouth was a sign that it was safe. Like shaking your hand means it won’t be used to punch you in the nose, safety is also a sign of peace.
The olive branch is a well-known symbol of peace. A saying developed about “presenting the olive branch.” It means that you go out of your way to show you come in peace. You put your best foot forward and try to show you are not trying to cause a problem.
The Ancient Greeks believed that olive branches drove away evil spirits. The olive branch was one of the attributes of Eirene, the Greek goddess of peace.
This made sense for a variety of reasons. First, olive trees provide many wonderful things that we use to celebrate good times. Second, olive trees take time to grow. We plant trees now as symbols of the promise of a long time of peace and tranquility. The same thing applies here.
Olive Branch Petition
The United States declared independence in July, 1776, which was over a year after the Revolutionary War started. The colonists, even after the war began, continued to try to settle their differences with Great Britain without becoming a whole new country.
The colonists tried to humbly show their loyalty to the king personally. They argued the problem was the king’s ministers. The colonists were still loyal to the king:
That your Majesty may enjoy long and prosperous reign, and that your descendants may govern your Dominions with honour to themselves and happiness to their subjects, is our sincere prayer.
This “olive branch” petition was ignored. The king would not even formally accept it.
Final Thoughts: Peace Has Limits
The eagle on the Great Seal of the United States clutches an olive branch and arrows.
The new nation (eagle) will live in peace (olive branch) but is willing to defend its liberty (the arrows). We would be a nation that will try to live in peace … without being a pushover.
The olive branch is a wonderful symbol of all of the best things life has to offer. Nonetheless, there is a limit to peace and tranquility. Sometimes, we have to fight for what we hold dear.