Mother’s Day is exactly one week away and one of the most popular ways to honor mom is by giving or sending her flowers. The holiday is second only to Valentine’s Day when it comes to floral purchases and according to the Society of American Florists, one-fourth of all flowers made for holidays come at Mother’s Day. A whopping 84 percent of American adults will celebrate mom next Sunday and spending is expected to reach a record $25 billion according to the National Retail Federation.
Most of those purchases – $2 billion dollars a year – are for flowers. Approximately 58 percent of them go to moms, 28 percent are bought for wives, and 17 percent are given to mothers-in-law. A study by FTD Florist showed that 20 percent of husbands also give their wives flowers on Mother’s Day as a way of saying “thank you” for all they do.
The first official Mother’s Day was May 9, 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May a national holiday in honor of moms. It all came about thanks to a woman named Anna Jarvis who ironically was never a mother herself. Following her mom’s death in 1905, Jarvis came up with the idea of honoring the sacrifices moms make for their children and families. She worked with the Philadelphia department store Wanamaker on ways to honor moms and in May of 1908 thousands attended a Mother’s Day event at one of the retailer’s stores and Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a church in West Virginia. Jarvis later criticized the commercialization of the holiday and by the time of her death in 1948, she had disavowed the holiday all together.
You see, Jarvis’ version of Mother’s Day was to wear a white carnation as a symbol of your love and respect for your mom, to visit your mom, and attend church. Jarvis’ mom loved carnations and Jarvis herself worked in the floral industry at one point to help raise Mother’s Day’s profile.
Celebrations of mom and motherhood go even further back then that though. Ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals honoring the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele and much later the Christian festival called “Mothering Sunday” gained popularity and was a major tradition in the UK and other parts of Europe. Originally held on the fourth Sunday in Lent and seen as a time for the faithful to return to their “mother church,” through the years it morphed into a more secular holiday and remains so today for the most part.
Visiting your mom is getting more and more difficult for many, considering today’s transit society in comparison to that of Jarvis’ time, but you can send flowers, go to church, and call her. More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year, with phone traffic spiking by as much as 37 percent.
So how will you be celebrating and honoring your mom or moms next Sunday? Some of us will be thinking of dear mothers who have gone before us while others will be sending flowers. (For my husband and me this will be a bittersweet year, as it will be the first that we don’t send something to his mom who recently passed away.) But just which flower should you choose?
Roses are often the “go to” choice, but did you know different flowers have different meanings? Maybe there’s one just perfect for your mom.
Carnations. Considered the “real” and historic flower of Mother’s Day, these simple and sturdy blooms signify a mother’s love, purity, faith, love, beauty, and charity with pink ones carrying the most significance on Mother’s Day. Legend has it that they first appeared on earth following the Virgin Mary’s tears shed over Jesus’ death, making them the symbol of a mother’s undying love.
Roses. Associated with love, gratitude, and passion, these traditional flowers also have a Marian symbolism through Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531, Mary appeared to young Juan Diego and instructed him to go to the Bishop and build a church. The Bishop refused to believe the young boy and asked for a sign of the Virgin’s authenticity. She instructed Juan Diego to go to the top of a hill and gather all the roses he could find and place them in his cloak, or tilma, and bring them to her. Upon doing so, Mary rearranged the roses in the cloak and instructed the boy to take them to the Bishop. Upon opening the tilma, the Bishop saw not roses but a colorful image of Blessed Mary on the fabric. He believed and a church was built. The actual tilma with the image remains perfectly preserved today and is on display at The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Yellow roses are also popular and are said to symbolize friendship. And, contrary to popular belief, the famous “Yellow Rose of Texas” song wasn’t written for a flower but a woman named Emily Morgan, whose activities during the Texas revolution made her legendary. Some people also consider the yellow blooms on a cactus to be the true yellow rose.
White roses are associated with purity and brightness and were Princess Diana’s favorite. She was often photographed carrying them and to honor her, Meghan Markle included them in her bouquet when she married Diana’s son Harry last year in St. George’s Chapel , which was filled with the fragrant blooms. A temporary garden called the “White Garden” was also opened at Kensington Palace to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Diana’s tragic death.
The Princess of Wales naturally had a variety of roses named after her and joined the famous and infamous alike. Dolly Parton, Princess Grace, Queen Elizabeth, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and even Reba McEntire (a red rose of course!) have roses named after them as do many, many others. This is not an easy process however, and can actually take up to 10 year and be a bit thorny. To name a rose after someone, you must obtain permission from the individual or their estate and register the plant with the International Registration Authority for Roses. Amazingly, The American Rose Society lists more than 25,000 varieties.
Orchids. The stunning but somewhat hard to grow beauties (at least for me!) represent love, beauty, and strength. The orchid is also a Chinese symbol for “many children,” making them the perfect Mother’s Day gift.
Tulips. I’ve always loved tulips. My bridal party carried them in our wedding and they are traditionally the flower my mom sends me. They say tulips are perfect for someone who is light-hearted and easy-going and represent comfort, coziness, confidence, affection, and happiness. Yellow tulips symbolize sunshine, white ones represent heaven and purity, and pink ones mean affection and caring.
Lilies. While my girls carried tulips in our wedding, I carried long-stem white Calla Lilies and one bright red anthurium for color. Calla Lilies represent beauty and a white lily connotes purity and majesty. Lilies come in a number of colors and varieties and are especially beautiful in mixed bouquets. A Chinese symbol for motherhood, the Day Lilly is perfect for Mother’s Day.
Daisies. White daisies are probably my favorite flowers, along with Easter Lilies, because they are so simple and so cheerful. Traditional white or yellow daisies symbolize loyal love while the bright Gerbera variety represents optimism, innocence, purity, and beauty.
Draper James/Southern Living
Hydrangeas. Perhaps the official flower of the south, these puffy and large blooms symbolize honesty, gratitude, and understanding. They are perfect for expressing gratitude and making amends.
Peonies. A favorite of so many women I know, peonies represent honor and compassion. By giving someone peonies, it is said you are telling them you honor them.
But maybe color is what you’re considering. If so, here’s what different colors of flowers represent:
Pink – innocence, unconditional love, thoughtfulness, and gentleness
Red – deep love and passion
White – purity, truth, and perfection
Yellow – trust, compassion, and respect
Purple – grace and elegance
Another fun option is to pick a flower based on birthday, as illustrated here:
Whatever you’re going to get your mom, make plans now if you haven’t already. Roses are indeed often red, but a forgotten mom is much like a violet: blue. Don’t forget mom and happy early Mother’s Day to moms everywhere.