While traditionally the colorful flowers used to celebrate this Mexican holiday are made of tissue paper, add a special touch with real carnations this May 5th. The bright red, soft pink, glowing yellow, frilly white and (recently) pretty purple petals of this long-lasting and readily available flower will add fun and flair to any fiesta. Cut short and strung up as a garland or arranged in tall vases of hand-painted pottery, these inexpensive blooms are the perfect flower to celebrate Mexican heritage and pride.
Originally native to the Mediterranean region, the carnation has been cultivated for well over 2,000 years all over the globe. Its subtle but pleasant smell, along with the cool softness of the whirled petals have made it a popular flower for any occasion and it can be found on hand at any florist or flower provider year-round at a fraction of the cost of roses or other stems. Sold singularly or in bunches, expect to shell out less than a dollar per bloom for these flowers that last two weeks or more in a vase with fresh water.
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Cinco de Mayo, celebrated each May 5th in the United States, is often confused with Mexican Independence Day (which is actually celebrated in September). Instead, this holiday, also called “The Day of the Battle of the Puebla” traces its origin to the Mexican-American wars of the mid-1800’s when French troops were sent to occupy Mexico to collect on repayment of foreign debts. In a significant morale boost to the occupied country, the vastly outnumbered Mexican troops were able to defeat the heavily armed French army, then considered to be the best in the world. This battle, fought in the city of Puebla, gave the French army their first defeat in more than 50 years and the celebrations to mark its occasion spread across the borders with California where it gradually picked up ceremony and tradition to mark the Mexican heritage of the area and beyond.
Known for their hardiness, these perennial blooms grow easily in sunny spots without much water. As cut flowers, their delicate looks are misleading, as these rugged rosettes can withstand quite a bit of manhandling and still look fresh at the end of the day. Mix them with palm leaves for a tropical look or leatherleaf fern and daisies for a more springtime appearance. Perfect with a bowl of limes and a fresh margarita, these bright blooms are the best way to shout “viva Mexico!”