Christmas is approaching and so are the poinsettias! These simple, symbolic plants are indigenous to Central America and Mexico and are steeped in Mexican legend. As legend has it, a poor village girl was headed to visit the nativity scene at her village chapel. Pepita had no gift for the Christ child, but an angel appeared to her and explained that the Christ child would appreciate any gift, no matter how humble. Pepita bent down and gathered a handful of weeds, arranged them as a bouquet and approached the nativity scene and presented her gift. As she did, the weeds turned into a beautiful bouquet of red flowers. All of those that witnessed this, were certain they had seen a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. So begins the importance of the poinsettia to the Christmas season of Mexico. Many linens in Mexico are embellished with this Christmas flower, as well as stained glass windows in the older and newly built churches.
Known today in Mexico as La Flor de Noche Buena, Flor de Nochebuena or simply Noche Buena (as seen at a Mexican vendor of these brilliant flowers). Translated as the flower of Christmas Eve, or flower of the Holy Night, these shrubs can actually become trees in the tropical climate of Mexico. Examine a poinsettia closely and you will see that the red “flowers” are actually LEAVES that have turned red! The actual FLOWER is the tiny yellow centers! Growers are now able to produce poinsettias with leaves in white, pink or mauve.
In association with Christmas, the red leaves are said to represent the Star of Bethlehem and the color represents Christ’s blood. This symbolism offers up an incredibly powerful vision for the Christian celebrating the birth of Our Savior. So on NATIONAL POINSETTIA DAY, December 12, think of Joel Roberts Poinsett, the US ambassador to Mexico, who brought this beloved, symbolic flower to the attention of the world. (Just FYI..he also founded the SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE)! Then be reminded of the symbolism brought to this flower by Pepita, a poor village girl in Mexico. The humblest of gifts are a treasure.