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Carnation Flowers Meaning, Symbolism And Association With Mother's Day

Updated on May 12, 2016

Carnation flowers are January birthday flowers and the most popular flowers or floral gifts for Mother's Day. Read about the meaning and symbolism of different colors of carnations, and also the history of association with Mother's Day gifts.

Carnation flowers are associated with January birthdays. They were also thought to be the ideal gifts for mothers in United States for a very long time and they are still very popular as a traditional flower choice for Mother's Day. During the time of mother's day celebrations, it was very common for daughters to wear carnation flowers even when they went to churches, as part of honouring their mothers.

Usually pink or other colourful carnation flowers are used for mother's day celebrations. White carnation flowers meant the mother is deceased. There is a wide variety of colors within the carnation family and they are also widely cultivated around the world. The scientific name for the carnation plants is Dianthus Caryophyllus.

In most of the places, carnation flowers represent love, gratitude and good luck. The exception is in France, where carnation flowers are not considered as a symbol of good luck and they usually use them during funeral ceremonies. However, as I mentioned earlier, carnation flowers symbolize good luck in most of the places and so they are very widely used for celebrations around the world including weddings, Parent's Day, Teacher's Day, International Worker's Day and most importantly the Mother's Day.

Not all varieties of the carnation flowers are suitable for all the occasions, we will see about the symbolism of different colors of the flower later in this hub. Now let us see how these beautiful flowers got so much importance for the Mother's Day celebrations.

The photo from Wikimedia Commons Image shows carnation flowers of different colors.

Association of Carnation flowers with Mother's Day Gifts

It was Anna Jarvis, a social activist, who worked hard for declaring Mother's Day in United States. She is the founder of Mother's Day and she is also known as the mother of mother's day. She never married and didn't have any children of her own. The importance of carnation flowers during mother's day links with the life of Anna Jarvis. In fact, carnation flowers were Anna Jarvis's mother's favourite flowers.

When Anna Jarvis's mother died, Anna Jarvis was deeply saddened since she was not in good terms with her mother just before her mother's death and there was no time to reconcile. Her mother died on the 9th of a May and she deeply regretted that she couldn't reconcile with her. After a year of her mother's death, she expressed her wish to fulfil the dream of her mother to introduce a Mother's Day in America to honour all the mothers. Anna Jarvis resigned her job and actively campaigned for this purpose, and finally Mother's Day was declared officially in America in the year 1913.

Now, back to the association of carnation flowers with mother's day celebrations, as I mentioned above carnation flowers were the most favourite flowers of Anna Jarvis's mother. It is said that as Anna Jarvis went to the church to offer prayers for her deceased mother, she used to take her mother's favourite carnation flowers also to the church. She sent about 500 white carnation flowers to the church in West Virginia, where her mother taught Sunday school in order to honour all mothers and also to honour her own mother.

As the mother's day was declared and started to be celebrated across America, carnation flowers also became popular as an important part of the celebrations as they had been used by Anna Jarvis. Even though almost all flowers are used for mother's day celebrations, carnation flowers have special importance and they are considered as the traditional flowers to be gifted on mother's day.

Apart from gifting, women used to wear carnation flowers during the celebrations, all as part of honouring all mothers. And mothers include birth mothers, adoptive mothers and all those who have kindness, love and motherly affection towards children irrespective of whether they have given birth or not.

There is another belief that back up the association of carnation flowers with mother's day. It is believed that the original pink carnation flowers originated from the tears of Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, during the time of the crucifixion of Jesus. There is no surprise carnation flowers are associated with motherly love.

The below image of the pink carnation flower is from Pixabay.

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Carnation Flower Bouquet | Fresh Flowers Gift

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Carnation Flowers Symbolism

Carnation flowers come in a variety of colors and each has a different symbolism. In general, carnation flowers symbolize good luck, love and gratitude in most of the places (not in France) and they are a good choice to be used as a gift or decorations. Let us see the meanings of different colors of carnation flowers!

The original pink carnation flowers symbolize motherly love, but they can also be used as a gift for anyone.

The deep red variety represents deep love which makes it an excellent gift for lovers.

Lighter versions of the red carnation flowers symbolize admiration and the white variety stands for pure love which can be the love between any one including lovers, friends or family. White carnation flowers are also used for mother's day in case the mother is deceased, as a way of showing the eternal love.

Purple carnation flowers represent capriciousness or unreliability.

Yellow carnation flowers represent disappointment or dejection.

Purple and yellow carnation flowers are usually not used for gifting, due to the associated symbolisms mentioned above. It should be fine if you are gifting them along with other colours of carnation flowers.

Carnation flowers with stripes represents regret or refusal of love. To make the refusal in a polite way, the striped carnation flowers can be combined with the red flowers. This will help to avoid being rude to the other person.

Don't you think it is a good idea to know the symbolism of these flowers, before gifting them to any one?

Red Carnation Flowers
Red Carnation Flowers | Source

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More About Carnations Flowers

Carnation flowers are produced in the plant that has the scientific name Dianthus caryophyllus which can grow up to 80 cm tall. There is a wide variety of colors that can be found in the carnation flowers, many of them a hybrid of the original variety that has the pink colour. The most common colours of carnation flowers include pink, white and red, but it appears that there are more than 300 varieties including many hybrid varieties that are cultivated around the world. There is also a green hybrid variety of carnation flowers which is popular for St. Patrick's Day celebrations. Sometimes white carnation flowers are also dyed green to be used for the St. Patrick's Day.

You can easily grow the carnation plants in well drained soils either from the seeds or a new plant or even from the stem cuttings. The plants need full exposure to sun for optimum growth and flowering. They do not need watering daily except during the summer months or when the temperature is too high.

Carnation flowers are great for decorations and for floral arrangements meant for celebrations, as they don't get dried very fast. They can usually last for about two to three weeks after picking from the plant which make them a really good gift choice for those who love flowers.

Mostly carnation plants will survive the winter temperatures too, so they make a good choice for any one who loves beautiful, colourful and lasting flowers in their garden!


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    • VioletteRose profile image

      VioletteRose 3 years ago from Chicago

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Carnations has always been my favorite and I so like the colors. A great connection to many lives of women and wonderful thought for a gift.

    • VioletteRose profile image

      VioletteRose 3 years ago from Chicago

      Thanks AliciaC :)

    • VioletteRose profile image

      VioletteRose 3 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you so much FlourishAnyway!

    • VioletteRose profile image

      VioletteRose 3 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you WiccanSage, I agree most flowers are lovely!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I didn't know about Anna Jarvis and the origin of Mother's Day. Thanks for sharing the interesting information!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I was unaware of the symbolism and history of carnations and their Mother's Day connection. Thank you for this nicely researched hub! Voted up +++.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      I love carnations, but then I love most flowers. Very nice, thanks so much for sharing! Hopefully I'll get a bouquet for Mother's Day.