Fact or Fiction: The Legend of the Poinsettia



Poinsettias are one of the traditional symbols of the festive, holiday season that has us humming carols in stores and looking forward to good times with family and friends. We give them and we get them and desperately try to keep those poinsettias alive and flourishing past the winter season to no avail. As with most things in life, there's more to the poinsettia than simply what we see. 

Fact or Fiction - The Legend of the Poinsettia

Here's one common version of the "Legend of the Poinsettia", in case you haven't heard the story. 


"Mexican legend tells the story of a poor child on the way to church on Christmas Eve. As was the custom in the village, everyone would bring gifts to lay at the feet of the Baby Jesus near the altar. The little child felt ashamed to not have a gift to give, but went to church anyway. On the way there, an angel told the little one to pick some dried weeds that were growing on the side of the road and use them as a gift. The young child did as told, and upon reaching the church, laid the weeds down next to the other precious gifts. As the little child did so, the weeds turned into beautiful flowers."

Poinsettias received their name in the United States in honor of Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the plant into the country in 1828. Poinsett was a botanist, physician and the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. He sent cuttings of the plant he had discovered in Southern Mexico to his home in Charleston, South Carolina. The word Poinsettia is traditionally capitalized because it is named after a person. In Nahuatl , the language of the Aztecs, the Poinsettia was called Cuitlaxochitl (from cuitlatl, for residue, and xochitl, for flower), meaning "flower that grows in residues or soil."

Today the plant is known in Mexico and Guatemala as "La Flor de la Nochebuena" (Flower of the Holy Night, or Christmas Eve).


One undisputed truth is that December 12th is Poinsettia Day, which marks the passing of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851. Poinsettias are not poisonous however, they are not edible.   

What are your family's favorite holiday legends to share each year?


Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to All!