Floral History: How the Poinsettia Became Associated with Christmas
Consumers in the U.S. spend approximately $26.6 billion on flowers every year. Whether it's flower delivery or paying visits to brick and mortar flower shops, it's abundantly clear that America loves flowers.
Seasonal flowers are particularly popular. With Christmas just around the corner, some of the best selling flowers of the season are Poinsettias. It might seem strange to have such a vibrant flower associated with winter, but here's a short look into some of the history and mythology behind the Poinsettia.
Poinsettias are native to Central America, and grew most abundantly in what is now southern Mexico. The Aztecs called the plant "Cuetlaxochitl" and used it to help soothe fevers. In addition, the bright red leaves were often used to create dyes and paints.
The first botanist to note the Poinsettia in writing was Juan Balme during the 17th Century. However, the plant didn't receive the botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima until it was rediscovered by a German botanist later in the century. Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, is who the flower is officially named for, as he was the first to introduce the species to North America.
The traditional story told about Poinsettias is about a girl named Pepita, who had no gift to present to Christ during Christmas services. On her walk to the chapel, she picked a few handfuls of weeds from the roadside and fashioned them into a bouquet. When she placed the bouquet at the foot of the altar the weeds suddenly bloomed into a beautiful red bunch of Poinsettias. From that day forward, the flowers were referred to as "Flores de Noche Buena," which translates to "Flowers of the Holy Night."
In addition to having their own mythos, Poinsettias traditionally bloom right around Christmas, which has made them a natural choice for the centerpiece of floral arrangements around the holidays. Now, you can order these beautiful arrangements for flower delivery or even pick up a live planter filled with them.
If you're looking for gift ideas this holiday, Poinsettias are a beautiful way to celebrate. And now you can even tell the story that inspired their association with Christmas.