Our beautiful season of Christmas is here again with its many strange traditions. There are many Christmas traditions and customs we are very familiar with, and there are others that are not popular. Though the unpopular ones are just as worth remembering; One of many such strange traditions is the association of the Poinsettias plant with Christmas.
History and origin of poinsettias
Poinsettias initially grow in Central America, in an area of southern Mexico referred to as ‘Taxco del Alarcon.’ They often flower in the winter season. It was used by the ancient Aztecs to make dyes for clothes. It was also used to make cosmetics, and the milky white sap was turned into medicine for fevers.
The plant was made accessible because of a man named Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. He sent some of the plants to his greenhouse in South Carolina, where he began growing them and sending them to his friends and some botanical gardens. His friend John Bartram of Philadelphia was one of the persons who received the plant. John sold the plant under its botanical name ‘Euphorbia pulcherrima.’
Association of Poinsettias with Christmas
The legend linking poinsettias and Christmas goes like this:
A poor Mexican girl named Pepita, who had no gift at a Christmas Eve service to give to baby Jesus. She was sad about this but was cheered by her cousin, who said that her gift doesn’t have to be extravagant, it just has to come from someone who loves Jesus, and it will still be accepted. Pepita lacked ideas on what to give but picked a handful of weeds to give in the service.
After she dropped the weeds at the bottom of the nativity scene, it turned into bright red flowers. This was considered a miracle by many people who saw what had happened, and the flowers became known as the ‘florets de Noche Buena,’ which means ‘flower of the holy night.’
Poinsettias have also been associated with being similar to the star of Bethlehem, a famous symbol of Christmas.
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