Exploring Poinsettia Christmas Flower Meanings: First things first…the poinsettia isn’t really a flower. Nope. Its red tops (thought to be flowers) are actually the leaves of the plant that have changed color. However, as the poinsettia is typically referred to as a flower, I’m rolling with it!
Secondly, the poinsettia isn’t just for Christmas. When properly nurtured, this plant will live all year round, and for many years. Read further to get my story about a poinsettia my best friend cultivated that lived for over five years, and grew into a giant tree!
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About Poinsettia Meanings
Okay, now that those preliminary points are out of the way, on to poinsettia flower meanings! So, at the time of this writing, the Christmas flower season is approaching. And with it, comes an onslaught of brilliant poinsettias. So how did the poinsettia become associated with the Yuletide vibe? A look-see into the plant’s origins will answer that question. But first, a little background…
Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Guatemala. It was first introduced to the United States by Joel Poinsett. Joel Poinsett was an American linguist, scientist, horticulturist, and also a missionary to Mexico. The plant was named after him sometime in the nineteenth century in honor of his missionary work.
Key Words for Symbolic Poinsettia Flower Meanings
Growth of Poinsettias
Did you know poinsettias can grow up to 15 feet!?! Yep. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the poinsettia my BFF has been growing for the last 4 years (below). It’s freaking huge! Given a well-fed soil, that also drains well, plus the right exposure to both light and dark – you can have a poinsettia ‘tree’ too! So resist the urge to toss your poinsettia Christmas flower! Keep it, nurture it, and let it show you how expansive it can get!
This brings me to a personal symbolic observation. Because it’s often looked at as a disposable plant, the poinsettia is painfully underestimated. I myself am guilty of not knowing just how majestic and gigantic this plant can become when given a little care. Symbolically, this reminds us to never overlook the magic in life – even when it seems insignificant. It’s also a reminder to take care of life – you never know what a little love can produce!
Poinsettia in Aztec Culture
As far as symbolism goes, there’s plenty. Starting with the Ancient Aztecs. They called the plant Cuitlaxochitl, which means “star flower”. The Aztecs have unique flower meanings of their own, and they deemed the poinsettia to symbolize purity. Interestingly, red is also a color of purity in Aztec wisdom. They used the red tops of the poinsettia flower as a dye for skin and clothing – thus marking the bearer as clean, pure and sacred.
The poinsettia is also a symbol for motherhood. An ancient remedy of Mexico prescribed a decoction of the red floral leaves to nursing mothers to increase their milk production. Don’t try this at home, folks. Large doses are toxic to both mother and unborn child. Best to leave this remedy out of your holistic toolbox.
Poinsettia and its Christmas Flower Meaning in Lore
So what about the poinsettia and its Christmas flower meaning?
Well, there is a legend in old Mexico about a young boy who wanted to make an offering to his church at Christmastime. He was a poor boy, and had nothing to give. So he knelt outside the church to pray. After a moment of devotion, the boy got up, only to find a beautiful plant at the very spot where he had prayed. The boy took the flower and presented it to the church.
The priests noticed the brilliant red star flowers on the plant, and declared it to be a sign of the Star of Bethlehem.
The priests also noted the red of the flower – which they took to represent the blood of Christ shed for the world. The priests and church members were ecstatic with the boy’s discovery and offering. So much so, that the flower was named “Flor de la Noche Santa”, which means “Flower of the Holy Night.” It’s also been called “Flor de Noche Buena”, which means “Christmas Eve Flower”.
Last Thoughts on Poinsettia Meanings
I hope this article on the poinsettia flower meaning has offered you some insight into this remarkable plant. I further hope you’ll give a second thought to keeping your Christmas poinsettia this year. A well kept poinsettia will grow into an impressive tree…and just like the spirit of Christmas, it will be the gift that keeps giving you joy for many years to come.
As always, thanks for reading!
Happy Poinsettia Blessings,
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