The Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is known as a Christmas flower, but it didn’t grow in Judea at the time of Christ’s birth. Poinsettia is native to Mexico where it was a symbol of purity to Aztec Indians. Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced the flower into the United States. While Ambassador to Mexico, he had poinsettia sent to his home in Greenville, SC. He distributed the flower to botanical gardens and to friends interested in horticulture.
Today, poinsettias occur in different colors, e.g., red, pink, white. There are mini poinsettias to large specimen tree-size poinsettia. Their stems are woody and they tend to quickly drop flower petals. The poinsettia is not only the most popular Christmas flower, but the number one flowering potted plant in the United States. My brother had a poinsettia for about 7 years. Every year it blooms around Christmas. He started to decorate it like a Christmas tree.
Every Christmas, members of my Church can donate a poinsettia to decorate the altar. I suppose the reason is the beautiful color of the plant — I’ve never heard any discussion about the flower being symbolic of purity. In the future when I see a poinsettia at the church altar, I am going to think about the purity of the Christ child who came to earth.
Reflection: If you receive a poinsettia for Christmas, enjoy it and don’t forget to think about ways you can be a pure light in a darkening world.
Copyright: December 17, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth
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