Beautiful Traditions intermingle with Sacred Symbolism


Sandhill Cranes at Twilight, mixed media

Stories abound and there are several versions, but one thing remains constant: the Poinsettia is a beautiful plant recognized the world over as the Christmas Plant.

An Indian tale is my favorite. “When God created Nature on Mother Earth, he asked the plants to create their best flowers to give to the world, and to choose a season of the year for their birth. The flowers were also advised to always give their best in beauty, love, harmony and wisdom to all who should take them in hand.

 “One day God saw that one plant in particular, from the moment of its birth, was the very essence of all those things. But as much as this flower wanted to be chosen and handpicked, no one stopped to admire it; and why should they, for its flowers were too small, and its leaves too big.
“When God saw this, he went to the plant and said:

“I see that you are a beautiful plant. You fulfill your mission even though your beauty is not appreciated. This makes you sad, but you do your best to make others happy by giving them unconditional love to make them happy.

“Because of this, I will give you the pure essence of my blood, transforming your leaves into the cheeriest red because of your goodness. From this moment on, you will be the most treasured flower during the most important season on earth.

 “From that moment on, the plant with the small flowers and large leaves was transformed into the beautiful Christmas Eve flower known as the Poinsettia.”

 And so, the Christmas Eve flower (poinsettia) fulfills the mission that God left with his blood in its leaves: to give love and hope to all beings.

 Courtesy of “Window of the Heart Foundation.

On a more historical note. The Poinsettia is native to Mexico and was called Cuetlaxochitl by the Aztecs. Its name signified “Flower that withers, mortal flower that perishes like all that is pure.”

The plant was cultivated as a gift from the gods and Montezuma (1480-1520 last of the Aztec Kings) who adorned his palaces with the plant. With its blood red color, the plant served as a reminder of the sacrifice the gods had made to create the universe, and the debt which would be repaid with human sacrifice.

In the 17th century, Franciscan missionaries used it in the nativity procession, the Fiesta of Santa Pesebre because of its flaming red color which symbolized the blood of Christ.

Legend has it that a poor Mexican girl named Pepita was heartbroken at not having money to buy the baby Jesus a present. Seeing her in tears, an angel appears and tells her to gather a bundle of the weeds growing nearby. When Pepita’s tears fall on the weeds, they miraculously turn into glorious red blooms.

Another legend tells of the Franciscan friars who were celebrating Christmas by lovingly decorating a nativity scene. During the mass, as the Star of Bethlehem passed overhead, the leaves turned from green into bright red.

The poinsettia, formally a symbol of Aztec sacrifice, became a symbol of the blood of Christ and quickly became a part of the traditional Christmas season.
In truth, the plants were named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Poinsett was an amateur botanist who introduced the plant to the U.S. in 1825.

The plant was later named after the ambassador and changed to Poinsettia. The flowers have come to represent good cheer, success, and good wishes.

May you all have a Christmas filled with happiness and good cheer. Please drive carefully and enjoy the merriment. Happy Holidays!

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