LivingTravelPoinsettia: Mexican Christmas Flower

Poinsettia: Mexican Christmas Flower

The Poinsettia ( Euphorbia pulcherrima) has become a symbol of Christmas around the world. Its bright red color and star shape remind us of the Christmas season and brighten up the cold winter landscape. You probably associate this plant with the winter season, but it actually grows best in a hot, dry climate. It is native to Mexico, where it is commonly known as the Flower of Poinsettia. In Mexico, you may see them as potted plants, but you will also see them widespread as decorative plants in people’s yards, and they grow as evergreen shrubs or small trees.

Poinsettia grows at its best in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, where it can reach up to 16 feet tall. What we consider flowers on the Poinsettia plant are actually modified leaves called bracts. The real flower is the little yellow part in the center of the colorful bracts.

Perhaps the best known of the Mexican plants, Christmas Eve blooms mainly in November and December. The bright red color is ubiquitous and in early winter, the bright color is a natural reminder of the upcoming holiday season. The name of the plant in Mexico, «Nochebuena» literally means «a good night» in Spanish, but this is also the name given to Christmas Eve, so for Mexicans, this is really the «flower on Christmas Eve.

History of the poinsettia:

The Aztecs were very familiar with this plant and called it Cuetlaxochitl , which means “flower with leather petals.” or “flower that withers.” It was believed to represent the new life that warriors achieve in battle. The bright red color probably reminded them of blood, which had great significance in ancient religion.

During the colonial period, friars in Mexico noticed that the green leaves of the plant turn red in the run-up to Christmas, and the shape of the flower reminded them of a Star of David. They began using the flowers to decorate churches during the Christmas season.

The Poinsettia gets its name in English from the first United States ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. He saw the plant on a visit to Taxco de Alarcón in the state of Guerrero, and was surprised by its striking color. He brought the first samples of the plant to his home in South Carolina in the United States in 1828, initially calling it “Mexican Fire Plant”, but the name was later changed to honor the man who first caught the eye of El people of the United States. From that moment on, the plant became increasingly popular, becoming the flower most associated with Christmas in the world.

December 12 is Christmas Eve, marking the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.

Christmas Flower Legend

There is a traditional Mexican legend that surrounds Christmas Eve. It is said that a poor peasant woman was going to mass on Christmas Eve. He was very sad because he did not have a gift to present to Baby Jesus. As she walked to the church, she gathered some green leafy plants to take with her. When he got to the church, he placed the plants he was carrying under the figure of the Child Jesus and it was then that he realized that the leaves he was carrying had turned from green to bright red, making a much more suitable offering.


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