When I was young, I remember my mother wearing a corsage of red carnations to church on Mother’s Day. She told me that she did this to honor her mother, but when I got to church my Grandmother Hamrick was wearing a white carnation corsage. I found out later that she wore white in remembrance of her mother, who died when Grandma was two years old. When we got older, my little sister Pam and I wore little red carnation corsages with little red ribbons to honor ours.
The beautiful tradition which seems to have been lost with time was to wear red to honor and white to remember. It is a beautiful mother/daughter tradition lost to modernity.
In 2009 at Mother’s Day, I was out of town and did not go to church; but I remember thinking that I could no longer wear a red carnation on that day. My mother passed away the year before. My life had changed in yet another way.
How Mother’s Day Began
Mother’s Day began in 1908, exactly one hundred years before my mother died in 2008. The woman who started it in the US did so in response to her own mother’s death in 1905. This woman Anna Jarvis never married nor had children of her own. In May 1908 she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia.
She continued to work to organize the day and pushed through a letter writing campaign to have it made into a national holiday. Her persistence paid off because in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, the first ever holiday honoring a woman in the US.
Its popularity, though, mushroomed during the 1930s when women all over the country started wearing corsages made from a flower picked from the bouquets of flowers given to them by their husbands–white to remember their descended mother and red to honor their mother still living.
I even found a little poem about the corsage tradition.
A Mother’s Day Corsage
A Mother’s Day corsage
has a meaning of its own.
Red is to honor a living Mom… But White means she is gone.
A Mom with a Yellow Corsage, says she is always in grief.
She lost the child she cherishes… Her flowers make up a wreath.
But what about a Mom who has no corsage to wear?
Does it mean her arms are empty? Does it mean her life is bare?
If your Mother’s Day corsage is adorned with flowers of white,
Go find a Mom without a corsage… And Make her Mother’s Day Right.
by Kaye DesOrmeaux, 2000
Charm of the Carolines
But who gives the corsage, because women stopped making their own by the time I was a young girl? Actually, the tradition later says that the father gives the corsage, but many women are widowed far too early. I remember my Mom handling the tradition for her mother after my grandfather died.
Plus life gets in the way, and I think at some point it didn’t matter. Someone just did it.
Mother’s Day Today
Here’s a little Mother’s Day trivia? Did you know that more phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year? It seems that a phone call has replaced the earlier tradition of the corsage.
I believe the tradition disappeared for two reasons. First, people don’t go to church like they used to do so. And second, the corsages got way too expensive. I can remember the large white orchid corsages that came about by the 1970s. Maybe, the answer to the second reason is that women should pick a flower out of their bouquet and wear it to church.
I used to own a florist when my children were babies. I operated it out of my home. Here are some simple instructions on how to make a simple corsage.
Step by Step Instruction to Make A Simple Corsage
The secret is in the mechanics. If you have the right supplies, it is easy; and the supplies are cheap. You’ll need 4-5 very thin florist wires, floral tape for wrapping, a corsage stick pin, and thin ribbon.
When I was young, we wore a simple corsage made with 3-5 miniature carnations. So I’ll use this example to teach you how to make your own. Honestly, it will only take you about ten minutes.
By the way, these corsages then only cost about a dollar. By the time my girls were young they cost about $3. I’m not sure what they cost today.
Take a flower and cut off its stem leaving a little on. Run a wire through to create a new stem that bends into the shape you want.
Take the tape and wrap it, thus so, twirling the flower and its new stem as you feed the tape. Floral tape is self-sticking on both sides, and this makes it easy to work with.
Now repeat with the rest of the carnations.
Next, press them together in the design you wish, pressing their stems together to create one bigger stem at the bottom. Wrap these all together with the floral tape.
Now, take a piece of wire and wrap it with the tape. You will use this to hold the bow together after you make a bow.
Then, make a bow from quarter inch ribbon and clasp it using the wire thus so.
Add this to the stem and then wrap the new stem thus so again with the tape. I placed my bow within the corsage, but you can place it at the bottom, too. Now curl the end of the stem.
Voila, you’re done! All you need is the stick pin to pin it on. Here, I show the corsage from the underside with the stick pin. You can see the corsage’s mechanics.
Finally, the corsage can be made a day in advance for flowers like carnations. Just seal it in a sandwich bag and refrigerate it. Make sure it is sealed well because the gasses from some fruits might make the flowers close or turn them yellow or brown.
You can also use flowers from your garden, just check them out, though. Some wilt quicker than others. And gardenias bruise easily.
So there you are. Whatever you decide to do on Mother’s Day, wear a flower to remember her, wherever she is. I made this corsage in white to remember my mother, and I added a baby blue bow in remembrance of my mother-in-law, Dody. She loved baby blue. I’ll wear it on Sunday to church and then to my sister-in-law’s home for Easter Dinner.
AMAZON GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY
This is also an Amazon Gift Card Giveaway. So are you going to be the lucky person who gets this special $50 Amazon Gift Card for Mother’s Day?
Giveaway ends May 2nd at 11:59 pm ET.
Good luck and Happy Mother’s Day!!!
Check out more Mother’s Day tips from the giveaway hosts here!
A Letter for Mom by Life on Summerhill
Memaws Homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe by the UnCoordinated Mommy
Mother’s Day Tips by A Savings Wow
Do you remember this Mother’s Day tradition about corsages? Do you have any unique Mother’s Day traditions in your family? Please share in the comments below.