January Birth Month Flowers: Carnation and Snowdrop

In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about January’s Official Birth Month Flowers – the carnation and snowdrop. Learn about their meaning and symbolism in the language of flowers, as well as their cultural significance around the world today.

January Birth Month Flowers_ Carnation and Snowdrop

January Birth Month Flowers: Carnations and Snowdrop

For many of us, January is one of the coldest months. Flowering can be sparse, but several plants still stand out and showcase abundant and promising blooms despite falling amid the winter season. Examples of these blooms are carnations and snowdrops, which are both the official birth flowers of January.

The Official Birth Flowers for January: Carnations

A bouquet of red carnation flowers
Red Carnations

Think of fragrant clove-like scented blooms with multi-layered, feather-like petals that come in various shades of pink, white, and yellow. Lovely, right?

Perhaps one of the most, if not the best, highly-coveted flowers out there is carnation – the official January birth flower. It is also called dianthus (from its scientific name Dianthus spp.), grenadines, Sweet William, gillyflower, and clove pinks.

This famed ornamental plant wouldn’t be dubbed “The Flowers of God” for nothing. It blooms in a wide variety of colors, with each color signifying different meanings and symbolism.

Carnation Flower Meaning:

Carnation flowers symbolize fascination, distinction, and love. But since these popular flowers offer a variety of types and colors, they convey different meanings. The pink carnation represents a mother’s pure love and appreciation, while the white ones are for good luck, love, and affection.

Much like red roses, dark red carnations represent deep love and affection. On the other hand, lighter shades of red carnations symbolize friendship and admiration.

Purple carnations represent capriciousness, yellow ones express disappointment and sorrow, and striped kinds often mean regret and unwillingness.

Carnations are also the official 1st Wedding Anniversary Flowers, Spain’s National Flower, and Ohio’s State Flower.

History and Origins of Carnation Flowers:

Carnations have a rich history that dates back more than 2,000 years. They are thought to be native to the Mediterranean region, but their exact origins are somewhat clouded in mystery due to their extensive cultivation over centuries.

The name ‘carnation’ is believed to have derived from the Latin ‘corona’, meaning crown, as these flowers were often used in Greek and Roman ceremonial crowns. The Greeks and Romans used carnations in garlands and wreaths, and there are several references to carnations in Greek literature.

In the early 20th century, carnations became the official flower of Mother’s Day in the United States, further cementing their symbolic association with motherly love. Anna Jarvis, who founded Mother’s Day, sent 500 white carnations to a church in West Virginia in 1908 in memory of her mother. She suggested that a white carnation be the emblem of the day because it represented the purity of a mother’s love.

The Official Birth Flowers for January: Snowdrops

White Snowdrop (Galanthus) flowers in bloom

Although not as widely recognized as carnations, these plants are considered a January birth month flower. They give out captivating white, droopy-shaped flowers. Blooming in the winter between January and March, snowdrops are a known symbol of hope and rebirth. They are also called Galanthus.

Snowdrop Flower Meaning:

Snowdrops have rich symbolic meanings. In Christian tradition, the flower is associated with Candlemas (February 2nd), the festival of lights, symbolizing purity and cleansing the world.

Also, because they are some of the earliest flowers to bloom, even while snow is still on the ground, they have come to symbolize hope, rebirth, and the anticipation of spring.

Since snowdrops bloom only in white, they symbolize purity like other white flowers. These tiny flowers are also used to express condolence or sympathy at funerals. 

History and Origins of Snowdrop Flowers

Snowdrops are bulbous perennials famous for their bell-shaped, white flowers that bloom in late winter or early spring, often pushing through the snow – a characteristic that gives them their common name.

They’re native to a large area from the Pyrenees in the west, through France and Germany to Poland in the north, Italy, Northern Greece, Ukraine, and European Turkey.

The Latin name Galanthus is derived from the Greek words “gala” meaning milk, and “anthos” meaning flower, referring to the color of the flowers. They were not named until the 18th century when Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus standardized plant names in 1753.

The cultivation of snowdrops has a rich history. They were reportedly cultivated in the 16th century and were listed in the first plant catalog of 1597, “The Catalogue of the Plants Cultivated in the Garden of John Gerard.”

Today, there are over 20 species of Galanthus, and even more varieties and hybrids. Their ability to withstand cold temperatures and their cheerful, delicate blooms make them a beloved addition to gardens in temperate regions worldwide.

What are the Origins of Birth Month Flowers?

The tradition of birth flowers is thought to have originated in ancient Rome, where flowers were given as gifts to celebrate birthdays and other special events. Each month was associated with a particular flower, believed to hold specific characteristics or powers that would be imparted to people born in that month.

The specific flowers associated with each month have varied throughout history and between cultures. For example, some cultures in the Middle Ages used the symbolic language of flowers, called floriography, to communicate coded messages based on the type and color of the flower given. This practice continued into the Victorian era when the language of flowers became extremely popular and complex.

Like many traditions, the current list of birth month flowers that we use today has been influenced by various historical and cultural factors. It’s similar to birthstones, where each month is associated with a specific gemstone.

The Official Birth Flower Calendar:

Month:Birth Flower:Meanings & Symbolism:
January:Carnations & SnowdropPink Carnations (love and appreciation), White Carnations (luck, love, and affection, and Red Carnations (love and friendship). Snowdrop (hope and rebirth).
February:Violet, Iris, and PrimroseViolets (faithful love, truth, loyalty, humility), Iris (hope, faith, passion, purity, and innocence), Primrose (affection, young love, undying affection)
March:DaffodilsDaffodils (new beginnings, faithfulness, luck, prosperity, and hope)
April:Daisy & Sweet PeaDaisy (purity, love, new beginnings, fertility, and motherhood). Sweet Pea (blissful pleasure, gratitude).
May:Lily of the Valley & HawthornLily of the Valley (romance, luck, happiness, purity, humility). Hawthorn (hope, love, beauty, fertility, and supreme happiness).
June:Roses & HoneysuckleRoses (love, passion, romance, purity, gratitude). Honeysuckle (happiness and eternal love).
July:Larkspur & Water LilyLarkspur (happiness, love); Water Lily (enlightenment, resurrection, purity, beauty, creation).
August:Gladiolus & PoppyGladiolus (integrity, honor, respect); Poppy (remembrance, prosperity, enchantment, sympathy).
September:Aster & Morning GloryAster (faith, love, achievement, and wisdom); Morning Glory (affection, intimate love, patience).
October:Marigolds & CosmosMarigolds (devotion, commitment); Cosmos (harmony, love, innocence, beauty, modesty, joy, and balance). 
November:Chrysanthemum & PeoniesChrysanthemum (friendship, love); Peonies (romance, prosperity, good fortune, honor, and compassion)
December:Narcissus, Poinsettia, and Holly,Narcissus (innocence and purity); Poinsettia (success, celebration); Holly (happiness and optimism).

Wrapping Up

The beautiful carnation and the snowdrop are celebrated as the birth month flowers for January, each offering unique beauty and symbolic significance. Carnations, renowned for their ruffled appearance and a wide array of color options, symbolize love, fascination, and distinction. On the other hand, the snowdrop, braving the cold of winter to bloom, is an emblem of hope, renewal, and the anticipation of brighter days.

These flowers enhance our gardens and homes and serve as a beautiful, living tribute to those born in January. Giving them as gifts can convey heartfelt messages that words sometimes can’t.

For more, see our in-depth guide to the best birthday messages and quotes to share with friends, family, and loved ones.

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