Poinsettia: Flower of the Holy Night
As we have now entered into December, thoughts of Christmas come swirling into our minds. Presents, family gatherings, snow, good food, and the reminder of our eternal hope in the birth of Jesus Christ. Truly, Christmas is one of my favourite holidays! However, as fun as Christmas is there are some mysteries around it that few tend to look into. Some of our traditions struck a question to me, so I did a little research. We have a lot of Christmas traditions based around plants. We have poinsettias, wreaths, and of course the Christmas tree itself, but where did these traditions come from? Who started them? And what is the meaning or symbolism behind these things that make Christmas, well, Christmas?
I am going to share about one of these mysterious traditions. The Poinsettia! Now at Christmas we see poinsettias everywhere. You go to the grocery store and the shelves are stocked with them, you go to anyone’s house and most likely they will have one in their livingroom. But when did we start giving out these flowers, and why? Well, the poinsettia actually comes with some history and even has its own legend. The poinsettia was brought to America back in the nineteenth century by Dr. Robert Joel Poinsett, a U.S and Mexican Ambassador. He dabbled in botany and discovered the poinsettia in Mexico’s wilderness. He brought the plant back and propagated it in his own greenhouses and began giving them away to friends and family as gifts. Poinsettias quickly took off as a traditional gift at Christmas time: and it even got its own holiday! National Poinsettia Day takes place on December 12th if you ever feel like celebrating it.
Though Dr. Poinsett was the one to bring the poinsettia to America, he was not the original discoverer. Mexico had long since known of the flower and had their own legends about it. They have a story that on one Christmas night there was a little girl who wanted to bring Jesus a gift. However, the little girl was poor and had nothing she could bring to the chapel. Her cousin encouraged her that a gift given to Jesus by someone who loves him was enough, no matter how small it was. Encouraged, the little girl picked some weeds, made a bouquet, and brought it to the chapel. She placed the weeds by the nativity scene, embarrassed that she couldn’t bring more. Touched by the girls love, Jesus turned her weeds into beautiful red blooms, the poinsettia, or as they call it Mexico: Flores de Noche Buena – Flowers of the Holy Night. Some say the shape of the flowers on the Poinsettia are to resemble the Star of David that hung over the manger to guide the Magi to the stable where Jesus was born. The red colour of the leaves is said to represent the blood Jesus shed to save us, and the white leaves represent the purity and holiness of Jesus Christ. People began giving these flowers away at Christmas to give a reminder of what Jesus has done for us. A way of spreading hope and love to everyone during the Christmas season.
From legend to botanist, the poinsettia spread across America and became one of our longest standing Christmas traditions. So next time you see a poinsettia I hope it brings a smile to your face and that this story has given you a fresh view on this Christmas plant!