Have you ever wondered how the Euphorbia Pulcherrima, also known as the Poinsettia, or even the “Christmas Flower” became one of the most recognized markers of the holiday season? I was curious myself, which is why I began to dig a little deeper into the history surrounding the bold, beautiful Poinsettia.
Well, what I discovered was a little surprising! According to the TLC Christmas Guide, “Poinsettias have a rich cultural history.” Originating from the Mexican countryside, Poinsettias are considered to be tropical shrubs, and can reach heights of up to twelve feet tall when growing in their natural habitat. There are more than 100 different species of Poinsettia, and it is believed that the Aztecs used the plant for dying and healing purposes. The Aztecs also utilized Poinsettias for religious ceremonies; for this culture, the color red was considered the symbol for purity, making the Poinsettia a perfect choice.
According to TLC, many people (myself included) often mistake the plant’s leaves for flower petals, when the flowers are actually the smaller, yellow buds at the Poinsettia’s center. Poinsettias reportedly account for a massive $200 million in holiday sales annually, which is in part what continues to make them so recognizable around the holidays. Poinsettias bloom in December, which is one reason why they may have become a Christmas staple. Another reason quite simply points to the color of the plants; though Poinsettias can have yellow, white, or pink leaves, the bold red and green color is definitely emblematic of Christmastime.
One myth about the connection between the plant and Christmas is that the Poinsettia is a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem, the heavenly entity that led the three Wise Men to the place where Christ was born. One Mexican legend tells of a woman who only had weeds to offer Jesus on Christmas Eve, but when she carried her offering into the church, they blossomed into beautiful, vibrant Poinsettias.
There is no one known reason for how Poinsettias became so synonymous with the holidays, but I for one don’t think a finer plant fits the bill.
Do you know of any Poinsettia myths or facts?