Valentine’s Day Carnation

All I know is what I read in the papers. (Will Rogers)

So it’s true, then: The LaCrosse Tribune, quoting florist Lynda Christen, says whatever you give your honey for Valentine’s Day, make sure no carnations are involved. She is not alone. Kristi Gustafson Barlette of the Albany, NY Times Union states that Valentine’s tip number one (top of the list) is: “Forget the carnations.”

I had no idea. Why is the pretty carnation so despised? Rule number one doesn’t say stay away from all flowers other than the rose. No, it singles out just one offending flower: the carnation. Why?

What is so leprous about the flower whose Latin name means flower of love or flower of the gods? Curious, but not wanting to make a school project of this, I poked around the internet for answers. It’s a good thing this wasn’t a school project, because I came up with none. Nobody can offer a single reason which contains a shred of reason, logic or common sense for dissing such a pretty flower. I did learn that the carnation has become the symbol of Mother’s Day, but that surely can’t be the reason the carnation is now singled out as enemy number one of the Valentine’s Day gift giving thing. Who loves more than a mother?

The only other candidate I could track down for disrespecting carnations was: carnations are cheaper than roses. On the surface, this actually might make a modicum of sense. If I were to receive a gift made from gold and an identical one made from cardboard, which one will have more value to me? Same with flowers. Someone receiving roses might attach more value to the gift than if the gift was carnations… if the roses were more expensive, so the argument would go. However, this is flawed logic. If carnations were acceptable as a gift, there would be more demand and their prices would be higher. In fact, the reason roses cost so much this time of year is exclusively because they’re in such demand. Therefore, if carnations were in demand, they would cost more, which would eliminate the “carnations are cheap” excuse. Carnations are cheap because they are dissed, they are not dissed because they are cheap. Therefore, there is no logic to the rule that carnations are Valentine’s Day enemy number one. It just is what it is.

But this does bring up an interesting general question: what makes us attach value to a gift? One aspect is the total cost. A pair of Jimmy Choos is likely to be appreciated more than a pair of Wal-Mart no-name flip-flops. Another is what I call accuracy: the degree to which the giver knows the receiver and nails “that something” the receiver holds in high esteem. (One of my good friends hit the spot a few years ago, for example, with a six-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter she scored for me somewhere back east.) The third thing which affects the value we place on a gift is how much it cost the giver. The widow’s mite comes to mind as a good example.

The gift Jesus Christ gave us qualifies on all three counts as the greatest gift we ever will receive: It is the most valuable gift we will receive in our lifetime, it is something we absolutely need more than anything else, and it cost Him everything. We just pick it up as a free gift… but what a gift!

To everyone celebrating Valentine’s Day tomorrow, enjoy! Especially when you keep in mind the King of all kings loves you to death!

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