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Poinsettias are the flower of Christmas. Many families have one in their homes and there are special displays in churches and other public places. How did this plant become a traditional part of Christmas decorations? This is what I found out.

The Christmas tradition of poinsettias is inspired by Mexican folktale about a poor little girl called Pepita who had no present for the baby Jesus at a Christmas Eve service. Her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up by suggesting that even the smallest gift would be enough, so Pepita picked up some weeds growing near the church. When she stepped up to the altar and placed the arrangement they suddenly transformed into the bright red flowers we know today. 

Symbolically, we have Jesus’ life story in one plant. The leaves symbolize the star that led the Wise Men to the newborn Jesus, the red leaves are a reminder of the blood of Christ shed during His crucifixion and the white leaves represent Christ’s purity.

I heard a story about a family who used to take poinsettias after the service on Christmas morning and try to kill them each year. The mother would nurture them all summer long, then throw them in a closet in October. Early December, she would pull them back out and they would be this beautiful red plant. You can regrow the plants every year, but it requires putting them away in a dark place. It's a great reminder of the Resurrection story. Jesus was born to save us from our sins. This Christmas, as you look at the lovely poinsettias may it be a visible reminder of Christ's birth and death.

                                                 Jannette Hickey-Gascho

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