Happy Poinsettia Day!
If you didn’t know December 12th was Poinsettia Day, we’ll fill you in.
Joel Roberts Poinsett (hence the plant’s name) was the first Ambassador from US to Mexico in 1825. While visiting the Taxco region during 1828, he became fascinated with the plants he saw and sent many to his home in South Carolina.
While growing his own plants back home, Poinsett began sending his red-bloomed flowers to friends and botanical gardens. In turn, they gained in popularity.
Joel Roberts Poinsett died on December 12, 1851, and Congress honored him by declaring the 12th of December National Poinsettia Day. This explains part of their popularity during the holidays. However, an old Mexican tale also helps to link the poinsettias to Christmas:
There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.
‘Pepita’, he said “I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy.”
Pepita didn’t know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.
The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.