Today, poinsettia is no longer an unusual plant but is recognized worldwide as a symbol of Christmas. It is an active part of Christmas wearing red and green attire. Its hues – red for love and green for the hope it inspires in the world – reflect the true spirit of the holiday.
Poinsettia’s history and meaning
Christmas Eve, Shepherdess, Poinsettia, or Federal Star, is a plant of the Euphorbiaceae family, native to the Mesoamerican region. It is usually a shrub or small tree whose height can vary between 0.6 and 3 meters.
In reality, what we normally know as a flower, consists of a set of bracts (modified leaves) in the center of which is the true flower of the plant, of a golden yellow and reddish color.
It also has dark green serrated leaves, which will turn reddish during its flowering in winter. In winter, the leaves turn reddish. In this case, the plant mustn’t receive light for about twelve hours, from October to Christmas.
Native to Mexico, this plant, whose native name is Cuetaxochitl, has a long and fascinating history. In addition to conferring medicinal properties, the Aztecs cultivated this plant and used it in celebrations and rituals as a symbol of purity for warriors and new life.
About its reddish leaves, cuetlaxochitl means flower with leathery petals or flower with leathery petals. It represented for them the blood of the offerings made to the sun to replenish strength.
Mesoamerican peoples considered it very important in their daily life as well as in their religious life. The Aztecs, therefore, cultivated the poinsettia long before Christianity arrived in the Western Hemisphere.
Origin of the Christmas flower
Although the exact origin of the Christmas flower is unknown, it is known that the Franciscan missionary friars who evangelized the Mexican city of Taxco de Alarcón used it as a floral ornament in their Christmas decorations as early as the 16th century.
Probably because it blooms during the Christmas season and has vibrant colors.
Their use by the friars during the so-called Feast of the Holy Manger, in which a procession was held to remember the birth of Jesus, is described in a document of the time.
Later, during the colonial era, Mexicans began to use them to adorn churches, decorate garlands and decorate their Christmas cribs.
Joel Roberts Poinsett
Joel Roberts Poinsett was in charge of spreading it worldwide. Between 1825 and 1829 he was the first American ambassador to Mexico. On one of his many trips through the countryside, he came across this striking red-leaved plant, which immediately caught his attention.
The renowned botanist Poinsett collected some cuttings and sent them to his greenhouse in Greenville, South Carolina. Upon his return to the United States, he set about cultivating and developing the plant.
Later, he had the idea of giving it to his friends for Christmas, as this is undoubtedly the time of year when it is at its best. This act evolved into an increasingly popular custom.
As a result, it acquired the name “Poinsettia” in North America. As a tribute and remembrance of Poinsett’s death on December 12, 1851, Poinsettia Day was established in the United States on December 12, 1991.
Today, poinsettia continues to have great significance at Christmas and not only in the United States.
Since the 19th century, it has been used as a Christmas decoration in many European temples. It decorated St. Peter’s Basilica even during Christmas 1899, inspiring visitors to admire the beauty of Mexico’s Christmas gift to the world.
Compared to those Poinsett discovered in the tropical regions of Mexico, it has changed significantly. Horticulturists have created low shrubs to adorn the interior rooms of homes during the Christmas season.
Thanks to hybridization, they have also been able to produce new varieties in shades other than red, such as yellow, pink, white or cream, peach and more intense shades of red.
These modern versions maintain their color for several weeks and can be used to decorate homes, businesses and commercial establishments at Christmas time.
With its distinctive red color and velvety texture, the poinsettia takes center stage in centerpieces. A high-quality, well-cared-for plant will bring joy and color to your home this Christmas, as it is the symbol of the holiday season.