December 12, we celebrate a flower almost as iconic to Christmas as the tree. Roberts Poinsett, an American botanist, physician, and Minister to Mexico in 1828 sent cuttings of the plant he’d discovered in Southern Mexico to his home in South Carolina. The flower was named after him, and we celebrate it on the anniversary of his death. In Mexico, the plant is known as La Flor de la Nochebuena or, Flower of the Holy Night. Long before that, however, the Aztecs knew it as Cuitlaxochitl, or the Star Flower. They used it for red dye, and the curing of fevers. The red reminded them of purity, or sacrifice.
The poinsettia plant’s connection to the Christmas season dates back to 16th-century Mexico. Legend tells of a girl who worried she had no gift to celebrate Jesus’s birthday because she was too poor. An angel tells her to give any gift with love. The young girl gathered weeds from alongside the road and placed them in the manger. Miraculously the weeds bloomed into beautiful red stars.
In the 1920s, Paul Ecke discovered a way to make the seedlings of the plant branch, and created the poinsettia industry. In July 2002, the House of Representatives passed a resolution creating the holiday in honor of him. Since then they have become big business. Poinsettias contribute upwards of $250,000,000 a year to the U.S. economy and they account for about one-quarter of flowering potted plant sales
Today, poinsettias are no longer just red. New hues from horticulture supplier C. Raker & Sons include Gold Rush and Christmas Beauty Marble. Did you know – the flowers on poinsettias are very small and yellow. The most decorative part of the poinsettia, which we think of as the flower, is actually its colorful bracts, that is, modified leaves.
Quotes about Christmas
Conversely, the red plant itself burns a brighter red when set off by the green than when it grows among its peers. In the bed I always reserved for poinsettia seedlings, there was little to distinguish one plant from its neighbours. My poinsettia did not turn scarlet until I planted it in new surroundings. Colour is not something one has, colour is bestowed on one by others.–Arthur Japin
When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow, We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago, And etched on vacant places Are half-forgotten faces Of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know.–Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first.–George Mathhew Adams
Let Christmas not become a thing Merely of merchant’s trafficking, Of tinsel, bell and holly wreath And surface pleasure, but beneath The childish glamour, let us find Nourishment for heart and mind. Let us follow kinder ways Through our teeming human maze, And help the age of peace to come.–Madeline Morse
Whatever else be lost among the years, Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing: Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears, Let us hold close one day, remembering Its poignant meaning for the hearts of men. Let us get back our childlike faith again.–Grace Noll Crowell
Christmas is more than a time of music, merriment and mirth; it is a season of meditation, managers and miracles. Christmas is more than a time of gaiety, greenery and gifts; it is a season of wonder, worship and wisemen.–William Arthur Ward
Time was with most of us, when Christmas Day, encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and everyone round the Christmas fire, and make the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.–Charles Dickens
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