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January’s flower, the carnation is rich with symbolism, mythology and even debate. Some scholars suggest that the name comes from the word “corone” (flower garlands) or “coronation” because of its use in Greek ceremonial crowns. Others conjecture that it’s derived from “carnis” (flesh) referring to the flower’s original pink hue. Another suggests that the name derives from “incarnacyon” (incarnation), referring to the incarnation of God-made flesh.

Available in a wide range of colors, this hardy, sweetly fragrant flower is also the state flower of Ohio and the first wedding anniversary flower. Virtually every color carries a unique and rich association. White carnations suggest pure love and good luck, light red symbolizes admiration, while dark red admiration, while dark red represents deep love and affection. Purple carnations imply capriciousness, and pink carnations carry the greatest significance, based on the legend that they first appeared on earth from the Virgin Mary’s tears—making them the symbol of a mother’s undying love.

Carnations are often worn on special occasions, especially Mother’s Day, Teacher’s Day, and on St. Patrick’s Day (in green, of course).

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