Love Like A Scarlet Carnation
On Valentine’s Day, the doctor for whom I work, purchases red carnations for every patient who comes that day for treatment. This affection towards his patients has always impressed me. From my first day on the job, November 17, 1999, I have admired this man. I never knew a doctor who not only bought flowers for his patients, but also made personal phone calls to each new patient following their initial treatment.

So last week, when I picked up the bouquet of carnations, I paused for a moment to consider the crinkly, sweet-scented, little flowers. I thought about our patients and the delight each flower would bring and then I reminisced about my high school days. If I remember correctly, our Tri-Hi-Y Club sold Valentine carnations. Any student could purchase a single carnation or more and club members would deliver them to their special someone. A white carnation meant friendship. The pink carnation indicated “I like you” and of course, the red carnation symbolized Love.

I wondered if the same color meanings held true for the outside high school world. According to, each carnation color carries its own meaning expressing love, care, or comfort.  If the receiver is feeling rejected or if the giver wants to express regret in some way, he or she sends a striped carnation. If the giver is feeling a bit playful or spontaneous, they should send purple carnations. Experiencing a great disappointment, then yellow carnations are best. Pink carnations express thankfulness for your mother’s love and the red or scarlet carnation usually conveys deep love and admiration.

Alliance, Ohio, where I work is known for the scarlet carnation. It was Alliance doctor, Levi L. Lamborn, who developed the scarlet-colored carnation around 1866. He was a friend and political opponent of William McKinley, to whom Dr. Lamborn presented one of his “Lamborn Red” carnations prior to an election. Since McKinley won the election, he adopted the scarlet carnation as his insignia. Later, in 1904, three years after President McKinley’s assassination, Ohio embraced the scarlet carnation as the official state flower.[1] And later Alliance was dubbed, “The Carnation City”.

Still, the flower name is of more interest to me than even the color. Although some scholars believe the name carnation “…comes from the word "corone" (flower garlands) or "coronation" because of its use in Greek ceremonial crowns, others propose that it's derived from the Latin "carnis" (flesh) referring to the flower's original pinkish-hued color or "incarnacyon" (incarnation), referring to the incarnation of God-made flesh.”[2]

Amazing. I’ve heard the word carnation all my life and I never, until this moment, saw its similarity to the word incarnation.  Of course, the flower speaks of Jesus. He created it on the third day.  “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” He is God, the Son, who became flesh, dwelt among us, and allowed us mere humans to behold His glory.[3]

Yet, we must jump back to the color – scarlet – the color of blood. Scarlet is mentioned throughout the Old Testament and in almost every instance it symbolizes Jesus. Scarlet is one of four colors of woven thread used to craft the gate[4], the door[5], and the veil[6] of the Tabernacle in Moses’ time and the Temple in Jerusalem[7]. Each entrance represents Jesus as does each color. Later, Isaiah speaks of our sin being as scarlet. To me, sin is black. But I now realize, when sin is covered by the Blood of Jesus, it becomes scarlet and then white as snow.[8]

Out of Love Jesus shed His blood and died in our place.

No wonder the scarlet carnation has, for all these years, symbolized Love.

[1] (accessed 2/14/17)
[2] (accessed 2/14/17)
[3] John 1:1-3, 14
[4] Exodus 27:16 and Luke 13:24
[5] Exodus 26:36 and John 10:9
[6] Exodus 26:31 and Hebrews 10:19-20
[7] Mark 15:38
[8] Isaiah 1:18


  1. You've posted a very informative post here. This article provided me with some useful knowledge. Thank you for sharing that. Keep up the good work. flower delivery cambridge nz

    1. Thank you so much flower delivery Cambridge NZ for your kind words, and if you are not a follower of my blog, please consider becoming one.

      I love red carnations. Being a flower shop?? and delivery, you must love them too. Praying you have a blessed and very Merry Christmas.


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