Poinsettia Day – December 12 marks the day of the holiday plant, not flower, Poinsettia. With its bright red leaves it is sometimes mistaken as a flower but is actually considered a shrub or small tree growing to height of anywhere between 2 and 16 feet with very small non-pollinating yellow flowers at the base of the red leaves.
Indigenous to Mexico and Central America, the Poinsettia has a mix of deep green and red leaves making it the perfect holiday plant.
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.
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.
Now the Poinsettia plant is a popular Christmas decorations in homes, churches, offices, and elsewhere across North America. They are available in large numbers from grocery, drug, and hardware stores.