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National Carnation Day – January 29, 2023

National Carnation Day is observed annually on January 29. The flowers are amazingly significant for almost any season or occasion. National Carnation Day was established in honor of William McKinley, the 25th U.S. President, who was assassinated in 1901 and always wore a red carnation on his lapel. The carnation was said to be his favorite flower, and he always wore one for good luck.

History of National Carnation Day

National Carnation Day, also known as Red Carnation Day, was established in memory of President William McKinley. He was born many years ago on January 29, and was well known for his love of carnations, as he often wore one on his lapel. McKinley’s famed carnations stayed on for a while, with the flower appearing multiple times all throughout his political career. It all started in 1876 when he was running for Congress in Ohio on the Republican ticket. His competitor, Levi Lamborn, was a horticulturalist who had cultivated a strain of bright scarlet carnations he named ‘Lamborn Red.’ So before debates between the candidates, Lamborn gave McKinley one of his carnations. And after McKinley won the election, he began viewing carnations as good luck charms — and maybe they were because they just kept working in his favor.

McKinley had carnations everywhere; his clothes and the vase in his office were filled with them. Even during his stay in the White House, he kept a whole basket of carnations centered in the Cabinet Room. One political joke remarked, “Whenever someone came to see the President and couldn’t get an office, he got a carnation.” President McKinley would pick up one of the flowers and place them in the visitor’s buttonhole. So whenever a man left the president’s presence wearing a flower, everyone figured he didn’t get what he went for.

According to legend, when President McKinley was sadly hit by an assassin’s bullet in September of 1901, he took off the carnation he was wearing and gave it to a young girl. People believe luck left him when he took off the carnation. After his death, National Carnation Day started in his honor. The official day began with the Carnation League of America, the group established by Lewis G. Reynolds of Dayton, Ohio, and was first held in 1903. It is a silent memorial day in which its observers wear a carnation in the spirit of patriotism and to “encourage the growth of good citizenship and advance the greatness of the country by the proper observance of national holidays.”

National Carnation Day timeline

1843
William McKinley is Born

McKinley is born on January 29.

1876
McKinley Receives a Carnation

McKinley receives a carnation from his opponent when he was running for Congress in Ohio

1903
The First National Carnation Day

The initial National Carnation Day is observed in 1903, in memory of President Mckinley

2003
100 years of National Carnation Day

2003 makes National Carnation Day a hundred years old.

National Carnation Day FAQs

What does a carnation symbolize?

The significance differs, depending on the flower color. Although generally, the carnation flower symbolizes fascination, distinction, and love — from a mother’s loyal love to a suitor’s flaming passion for his bride.

Are carnations difficult to grow?

No, carnations can take cold temperatures and some varieties stay green all winter in mild climates. Don’t forget to choose the kind that is suited to your area’s hardiness zone, so it will appear next year.

Are carnations toxic to dogs?

Well, although the exact toxin is unknown, carnations do cause toxicity symptoms like diarrhea and skin irritation in your dog if exposed to or consumed by it. To avoid less contact with your dog, keep your carnations outside the house. And if your dog ingests a carnation, contact your veterinarian.

How to Observe National Carnation Day

  1. Wear a carnation

    It's National Carnation Day, so why not wear a carnation? Wear it in the spirit of patriotism and in honor of the late President McKinley.  

  2. Give someone carnations

    President McKinley thought they were good luck charms, and it worked out for him. Let someone else test the magical goodness of carnations, even if you don't believe in the magic.

  3. Visit the Ohio Statehouse

    Take a tour and see if there is a special McKinley exhibit. Do not forget to stop at the Statehouse Museum Shop and Capitol Cafe. They give discounts if you are wearing a red carnation or red clothing.

5 Jaw-dropping Facts About Carnations

  1. Carnations are edible

    A lot of food and drink industries actually use carnations as flavoring agents or as edible decorations on desserts.

  2. Carnations have almost every color

    Carnations have almost every color of the rainbow in different attractive shades

  3. You can change the color of carnations

    Submerging your carnations in a mixture of your preferred food coloring and water will give it a different color in 24 hours.

  4. Carnations are the 'flowers of the gods'

    The Greek scientific name for the carnation flower translates to 'flower of the gods' or 'heavenly flower.'

  5. Carnations can treat physical illness

    Carnations have been used to treat various illnesses in the past.

Why National Carnation Day is Important

  1. Carnations are magical

    Maybe not literally. But carnations seem to have a lot of physical and mystic charm. National Carnation Day is specifically for these truly beautiful flowers.

  2. We remember President McKinley

    President McKinley loved carnations for a reason. We appreciate that reason and elevate the man himself. National Carnation Day remembers this great man and the flowers he popularized.

  3. They are therapeutic

    Want an almost free therapy? Oils extracted from carnation flowers have therapeutic benefits that calm the nervous system and reduce inflammation and swelling. They can be used for the treatment of rashes, to lessen wrinkles and cure eczema, and calm fevers and stomach aches.

National Carnation Day dates

YearDateDay
2023January 29Sunday
2024January 29Monday
2025January 29Wednesday
2026January 29Thursday
2027January 29Friday

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