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What is Poinsettia?
Poinsettias. They’re plants. I guess. Somehow, like with many other miscellaneous objects, Christmas has adopted the poinsettia as its own. How that happened, exactly, is what we’re going to be discussing today.
Poinsettia’s scientific name is Euphorbia Pulcherrima, and it’s a part of the Spurge family.
When it gets dark, poinsettias react by changing color. Their red halos are special leaves known as bracts.
It can grow up to 15ft tall and produces latex material that can be used in crafting.
The plant is indigenous to Mexico, coming in a range of red and green and are widely used as Christmas floral.
Now, personally, I haven’t really spared a thought for this plant. However, people buy over $200,000,000 worth of poinsettias during Christmas time. In addition, every holiday season over 70,000,000 people buy poinsettias in a 6-week span.
Furthermore, poinsettias have over 100 varieties, and it has different names all over the world.
The Legend of the Poinsettia
The poinsettias Christmas origins come from Mexican folklore. Mexicans call poinsettia Nochebuena, or “Christmas Eve Flower”.
The story begins with a young peasant girl on the eve of Jesus’ birth. You know, the star and the manger- the whole shebang.
Anyway, she has one task and one task only: to find a gift suitable for the baby messiah. But, as anyone knows, gifts usually cost a pretty penny, and the girl wasn’t able to produce enough funds to buy a sufficient gift.
But it was with the words of her cousin that things changed. He told her that any gift, no matter how small, would be worthy of the baby in the manger.
So, off she popped to find something that may not have been costly, but was significant nonetheless.
Then, she saw a beautiful branch of a green plant and brought it to Jesus’ manger. When she laid it beside him, it turned into an extraordinary red because of Jesus’ gratitude for the gift.
Everyone who witnessed it thought it was a miracle. Then, from that day on, the poinsettia was called “Flower of the Holy Night”.
How did Poinsettia Receive its Name?
The poinsettias origin in the United States comes from a man named Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett. Poinsett was the Mexican Ambassador, and he was also very interested in botany.
In 1825, he noticed an ordinary green plant that turned into an amazing red plant in December. After seeing this unusual plant, he sent it to his greenhouse in Carolina.
Horticulturists adopted the plant, naming it Euphorbia Pulcherrima. Then, people began to call the plant “poinsettia” due to its founder’s last name, Poinsett.
Poinsettias Past and Present
Back in the 14th century, the poinsettia was very important to the Aztec people. They called the plant “Cuetlaxochitl.”
The Aztecs viewed the white color as purity and they used the red color for dyes for clothing, and medicine.
One of the Aztec emperors, Montezuma, prized the plant so much that he shipped them to Teotihuacan so they would grow larger. In Teotihuacan, they would grow higher because of the high altitude.
After Poinsett introduced the poinsettia to the U.S., shopkeepers began to sell it in the 19th century during Christmas time.
The U.S. Congress declared December 12 National Poinsettia Day due to Joel Poinsett’s death.
By the 20th century, poinsettia became an American Christmas symbol. Later, in 1994, Americans bought over 50,000,000 poinsettia plants.
Americans use red poinsettias as Christmas decor the most, but they can also be white, pink, or yellow. A farmer named Paul Ecke developed some of these colors in the plant.
Paul Ecke owned Ecke farms and grew many poinsettias of various colors. He attempted to create attractive plants for Christmas decor.
Ecke farms now sell the majority of poinsettia plants during Christmas time.
Today, California supplies most of the poinsettia plants.
What do Poinsettias Represent?
To the ancient Aztecs, the white poinsettia leaves purity. Now, the red leaves represent Jesus’ blood, commonly associated with the Crucifixion, and the white symbolizes Jesus’ purity.
But, as with many things, this is looking pretty deep and I’m not in the mood for an English-class-esque breakdown so, basically…. just enjoy it.