Who doesn't love the irresistable prettiness of a carnation? They are simple, delicate and long-lasting, but did you also know that it is also a symbol of our love for our mothers on Mother's Day? Read the following excerpt from the book Holidays, Symbols and Customs Third Edition Edited by Sue Ellen Thompson (found in the Adult Reference Section of the library) to learn about this fascinating tradition.
During Victorian times, specific flowers had served as symbols for such complex emotions as sorrow, remembrance, hope, faith, longing, and love. Because they were associated with women and the home, flowers were a natural symbol of femininity and domestic happiness. Commercial florists in the Untied States reinforced these symbolic associations with great effectiveness. By 1919, the advertising slogan of the Society of American Florists was "Say It With Flowers."
Because her own mother had loved white carnations, Anna Jarvis (the founder of Mother's Day) urged people to wear them in honor of their mothers on the first national observance of Mother's Day. The unprecedented demand for white carnations boosted prices and caused shortages in some areas. To avoid similar problems in subsequent years, the floral industry tried to shift the focus from white carnations to flowers in general, encouraging people to decorate their homes, churches, and cemeteries with flowers and offering special Mother's Day bouquets. Year after year, the industry came up with elaborate campaigns urging people to buy roses, potted plants, corsages, spring flowers in baskets and other floral arrangements for their mothers.
Jarvis lobbied hard against the floral industry's "profiteering." She even proposed substituting celluloid buttons for white carnations as the official badge of the holiday and urged people to stop buying flowers or any other gifts for the occassion. Although she was not able to rid the holiday of its commercial aspects, it was the carnation- her mother's favorite-that survived as the main symbol for maternal purity, faithfulness, and love. Chronic shortages in the supply of white carnations led florists to promote the idea of wearing red (or pink) carnations to honor living mothers and white flowers to honor the deceased.