One doesn’t have to go far to see a poinsettia once November begins. Pretty much any store, church, or public place has real or artificial ones, often in great quantities. But where did they come from, and how did they become synonymous with Christmas?
Since the plant naturally flowers during the Christmas season, 17th century Franciscan priests used them in their nativity processions and scenes. Hence, that linked them with the holiday, along with their traditional Christmas colors.
A Mexican folktale has a different take how it became associated with Christmas. A poor peasant girl had nothing to bring to the nativity scene on Christmas Eve for baby Jesus. On her way to the church, an angel encouraged her to pick what was considered little more than a weed. When she laid the armful she had gathered at the base of the nativity, they burst with bright red flowers and forever linked them with Christmas.
Two men instrumental in promoting the poinsettia as a Christmas flower were Colonel Robert Carr, a nursery owner, and Paul Ecke, a horticulturalist. It was a third generation Ecke who is largely responsible for advancing the poinsettia’s popularity at Christmas. He sent free plants to TV stations to be used as decorations on-air from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Today, 70 million poinsettias are sold in a six-week period each year in the United States, valued at $250 million dollars. No surprise that it is the number one flowering potted plant in the U. S.
To honor both this Christmas flower and Joel Poinsett, December 12th was set aside as National Poinsettia Day by an Act of Congress in 2002. The twelfth is the day Poinsett passed away in 1851.
Did you buy one of the 70 million poinsettias sold this year?
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