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Poinsettia: Mexico's Christmas gift to the world

A gift from Mexico to the world

by Graciela Lozano

Christmas comes to the world, in a year that has made us rethink our lives, value love, closeness, distance, a hug, a visit. And with Christmas, around the world comes as every year a beautiful plant with large leaves red, white or pink, topped with tiny yellow flowers but together form a beautiful composition of contrasts of nature, which reminds us that God is with us by giving us the Flower of Christmas Eve and the Flower of Christmas.

Legend has it that the Aztec emperor, Moctezuma (reign 1502-1520 AD) walking through the gardens of the now city of Taxco, in the state of Guerrero, saw a beautiful red flower, marveling at its exquisite beauty, its intense red and texture, ordered to take that flower to his palace in Tenochtitlan and planted it in his gardens, it was winter, it was in full bloom, the beauty of so many plants together was hypnotic, the emperor was pleased.

He baptized it as Cuetlaxochitl, a Nahuatl name that in Spanish means "flower of leather petals" -"flower of leather petals".

It was so named because to the Aztecs, its texture and color reminded them of living skin. The flower is not only beautiful, but also formed part of the rituals of the priests using its medicinal and healing properties.  The Aztecs believed that the flower was part of a ritual of new life in which warriors killed in battle returned to earth in the form of hummingbirds to drink the flower's honey, so they were cared for with care and affection.      On the other hand, they were also appreciated because they were useful for dyeing fabrics and as a dye for painting pots and clay pots.

Upon the arrival of the Spaniards to Aztec lands, they discovered the presence of the beautiful plant in the winter, being conquered by its exotic beauty never before seen by a European, the Franciscan friars began to use it as an ornament in Christmas celebrations in the Viceroyalty of New Spain, (today Mexico) since this flower occurs in the winter in cold climates and when there is less sunlight in the day, and they call it Christmas Eve Flower.

Later it was taken to Europe in 1678, where it was taken to the Vatican as a Christmas ornament in 1899, when St. Peter's Basilica was completely decorated with this flower of Aztec origin.

In 1834 it received its scientific name Eupohorbia pulcherrima, Eupohorbia identifies it as a plant of the latex family and pulcherrina means the most beautiful.

Thanks to the United States Ambassador to Mexico Joel R. Poinsett (1825-1829) the flower is known as Poinsettia, the Ambassador who was a botanist by profession, was amazed with the colors of the flower and decided to take some to his home in Charlestonville, South Carolina, where he began to grow them in his greenhouse and to give them to his friends as Christmas gifts.

The plant, because of its beauty and blooming time, became popular all over the world, being today the representative flower of Christmas. It has different names in Spanish: Catarina, Flor de Pascua, Estrella federal, Pastora, Corona of the Andes.

Legend has it that when God created nature on earth he asked the plants to have their best flowers to give to the world and that each one selected the seasons of the year for its birth, he also asked them to give to the one who would take them in his hands the best of them: beauty, love, harmony and wisdom.  One day God saw that a special palm tree from its birth gave all that was most sacred in its essence, in order to be chosen, but no one stood before it to admire it, because its flower was very small and its leaves very large, however, did not stop fighting to be happy, even if no one turned to see it, then, God went to her and told her that she was beautiful, and that she carried out her mission with great affection, and even if her beauty was not valued, she gave unconditional love.

Then, God decided to give her his blood, and when he put it on her leaves, they were transformed into the most beautiful red that exists, turning her into the most beautiful flower, which would also bloom in the most important time on earth: Christmas, to be representative of love and the divine essence of the universe. From that moment on, this beautiful plant with large leaves and small flowers became the Christmas Eve Flower, making it the most representative of the birth of love and the hope of the world.  The Christmas Flower.

A beautiful gift from Mexico to the world.


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