What Is the National Flower of Spain? Meet the Red Carnation

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Every country has its own national flower that holds both historical and cultural importance to both the country itself and its people.

In the case of Spain, the national flower is the Dianthus Caryophyllus, also known in English as the red carnation, or as the clavel in Spanish.

The scientific name Dianthus Caryophyllus comes from the Greek, “dianthus” meaning flower of the gods, and from the Latin “carnation” meaning the incarnation of God.

The carnation is a synonym for both love and courage in many cultures, but just why did Spain pick it as the flower to represent their country?

In this article, we are going to cover how the carnation came to be the national flower of Spain, what the different color variants mean, and where and when it is used.

History of the Carnation in Spain

Whilst the carnation is now grown mainly in Aragon and also in the south of Spain in Andalusia. Its origins are much simpler as it used to be widely grown and used in all parts of Spain.

The national flower of Spain becomes fully grown after six to eight weeks with a long lasting blooming period.

With their attractive fragrance, the colorful bunches of carnations are often seen decorating windows of traditional white houses during times of celebration, which are common in Spain.

Meaning and Symbolism of Carnations

The carnation comes in several color variants however, the most common one, red, offered a beautiful contrast against the traditional white houses of Spain.

Red Carnation

A bunch of red carnations, Spain's national flower

Spain is also a predominantly Catholic country, meaning that the red carnation is also seen as a religious metaphor for the blood of Christ.

Whilst the most common ones that can be found in Spain are either of the red or white variants, but there are quite a few more shades that the carnation has to offer us and each one has its very own meaning behind it.

Light red carnations symbolize admiration, whilst dark red carnations symbolize love and affection.

It is for this reason that deep red carnations are associated with passion and love, two things of which are also associated with Spain and are common in Spanish celebrations.

White Carnation

The white variation of carnations, which are common in events in Spain, represents purity and luck.

Pink Carnation

Pink carnations, more typically the lighter shades, show gratitude. This variant is a very common gift for mothers in Spain on Mother’s Day as the pink carnation also represents a mother’s love.

Yellow Carnation

Not all carnations hold a positive meaning, as can be seen with the yellow carnation which represents disappointment or rejection.

When thinking of things Spain is known for, the first things that often come to mind are bullfighting and flamenco (and all of the delicious food that the country has to offer) and the national flower can be found in both.

The carnation can often be found adorning the heads of many a flamenco dancer (a traditional Spanish dance) and in the mouth of a sullen lover as they gently strum the Spanish guitar – and creating the idea of the traditional Spanish heartthrob.

And in the bullfighting ring, it can be found given to the matador at the end of the show.

In the past, the carnation was used most commonly to decorate homes, and whilst this still holds true; It is now used for many more things.

Apart from being used for decoration, the carnation also is used to make jams, creams, and oils.

The oil extracted from the  carnation can be used for many things such as to reduce swelling and inflammation, relieve stress, treat skin rashes, reduce wrinkles, and can even be used to cure fevers and stomach aches (just to name a few).

As the national flower of Spain, the carnation also takes part in many of the country’s celebrations.

One such event is the neighborhood parties of San Isidro, which take place in the month of May and are marked by a bank holiday, which is celebrated on the fifteenth.

This event is celebrated in the neighborhood of Carabanchel, in Madrid, and is, in fact, the celebration of the patron saint of the city.

During these fiestas, the huge park of San Isidro becomes home to many food stalls, pop-up concerts, and even a fairground complete with a Ferris wheel.

During this event, both red and white carnations are sold at almost every stand, alongside pañuelos and flat caps.

People can be seen in traditional outfits as either a chulapo or a chulapa – with the first wearing a flat cap and with the latter normally sporting a pañuelo and a carnation in their hair.

The fiestas de la Paloma also incorporate the chulapos and chulapas in their celebrations, although these are normally held in warmer summer months, usually in late August.

During the celebrations, the streets that are normally home to the Sunday Rastro, convert into streets that welcome food and drink stands, along with fairground games and live music for the three days of celebrations.

Whilst the nighttime side of these celebrations are almost exclusively for adults, a red carnation can almost always be seen in every woman’s hand or hair.

How to Grow Carnations At Home

Carnations are not only for the Spaniards, but you can also grow your own at home and it is relatively easy.

All you need to grow carnations at home is sunlight (full sun is preferred), slightly alkaline soil, and light watering from two to three times per week.

Carnations are easy to grow for the beginner gardener too as they require very little watering (just keep the soil moist) and show clear signs for if you do get to the point where you are overwatering them.

If the petals start to yellow, it is a sign that they are getting too much water.

So if you do want to grow your own carnations from seeds at home, by following these simple guidelines you will have your very own ones within six to eight weeks.

To sum things up, the carnation is a flower that aside from its beauty, also holds an important role in Spanish culture that can be seen reflected in Spanish events and in Spanish media.

So, if you can’t visit Spain yet, why not introduce a little bit of Spain to your own garden and plant Spain’s national flower, the carnation, today.

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