The poinsettia flower is widely used as a Christmas decoration. Do you know how this Mexican plant became associated with Christmas?
Throughout the world the vibrant red poinsettia plant is synonymous with Christmas. Even if you don’t know the name of the poinsettia plant, you will easily recognize it because of its widespread presence and popularity during the Christmas holiday season.
The poinsettia has become the most widely purchased plant in the USA during the Christmas holiday period. Its popularity is not confined to the USA, but the poinsettia can be found on sale at Christmas time throughout the world, even in southern hemisphere countries where Christmas is celebrated in the summer season. Part of its popularity is attributed to the bright red colour, brightening up a room and adding to the feeling of festivity at Christmas time.
The poinsettia is originally a native plant of Central America, especially of Mexico. It was introduced to USA by Joel Roberts Poinsett, USA’s first ambassador to Mexico. He was impressed by the plant ands sent it back to a botanist friend in Pennsylvania in 1828.
The plants association with Christmas comes from an old sixteenth century Mexican legend. A young Mexican girl, too poor to buy Christmas presents for her family, was guided by an angel to pluck weeds from the roadside and place them on the altar of her village church. Brilliant red or crimson blossoms sprouted from these weeds at the altar and from then on became associated with Christmas. From the seventeenth century Franciscan monks in Mexico began including poinsettia flowers as decorations during their Christmas celebrations.
The poinsettia flower has become so popular in USA that it now has its own day, 12 December being National Poinsettia Day. This Day is earmarked to simply enjoy the beauty of this wonderful Christmas season plant. Its popularity is not recent though. As far back as the early twentieth century seasonal Christmas postcards featured the poinsettia flower.
Whether it is brightening the room of a winter season Christmas in the northern hemisphere or adding to the vibrant summer colours of a southern hemisphere Christmas, the poinsettia is a popular seasonal plant that has a long history that is not necessarily known by all those who enjoy it.
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