A Holiday Wish and More

May the wonder of the season bring

peace and joy

to you and your loved ones

this holiday season and throughout the new year!

If you have read my blog before you know I love to research different fruits and vegetables that I find at the Farmers’ Market. I love learning not only about how to eat or cook them but about where they originated and how they came to the US, so I guess it really isn’t a surprise that just as I was about to post this photo and holiday wish, I thought, I wonder why we associate the poinsettia with the Christmas holiday season. So to satisfy my curiosity I did a quick little search and here are the results.

The Christmas Poinsettia

Euphorbia pulcherrima, commonly known as poinsettia or noche buena, is a species of flowering plant indigenous to Mexico and Central America. The name “poinsettia” is after Joel Roberts Poinsett,  the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the US in 1828.

In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuitlaxochitl (from cuitlatl=residue, and xochitl=flower) meaning “flower that grows in residues or soil.” The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication. Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as “Noche Buena”, meaning Christmas Eve. In Spain it is known as “Flor de Pascua”, meaning Easter Flower. In both Chile and Peru, the plant became known as “Crown of the Andes”.

The plant’s association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. The tale goes that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson “blossoms” sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus.

More on this beautiful plant, including misconceptions about it’s toxicity, can be found at Wikipedia.com.