Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oxford Examination Carnations

Traditions, traditions, Oxford is full of them, but the examination carnations are definitely one of my favorites. Whilst by Oxford standards they are a relatively new tradition, (thought to have originated in the late 1990s), carnations are worn during exam time to signify how far along each student is with their exams.  White carnations are worn for the first exam, red carnations for the last and pink carnations for all the exams in between.  

One suggested reason for this tradition is that students used to place a white carnation in their 
red ink-pots between exams, so by the last exam it was completely red.  

Unlike the strict academic dress called sub fusc, which all students must wear to exams, (another weird and wonderful tradition), carnations are not compulsory, but tradition also states that students must be given the flowers by someone else. Whatever the reason, I hope that this is one tradition that is here to stay - It is so nice to see people all around town buying each other flowers, wishing strangers luck and congratulating those wearing red. 

Where to purchase your carnations
The florists in Oxford sell out extremely quickly during exam time and the price per stem seems to go up every day! Try 'The Garden' or 'Jemini' at the Oxford Covered Market or if you're super organised, (or just plain lazy) you can order online at 'Oxford Carnations,' and have them delivered to your pigeon hole.

Photo: JCM Photos


Anonymous said...

My 8mm movies from '62 show many of us spilling out of Examination Schools, blocking The High, many with flowers in our lapels. My wife put a flower in my lapel each time I left for an exam. ROBERT SELLERS, ST PETER'S '60

The Oxford Fresher said...

It's such a lovely tradition. Thanks for sharing your beautiful memories.(Examination carnations have obviously been around a little longer than I originally thought....)

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