The sixth day of Christmas: poinsettia

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The three working days between Christmas and New Year can often seem rather anticlimactic. I thought this image of a discarded poinsettia ‘bloom’ in Painshill Lake captured something of that feeling.

More positively, poinsettias are of course a very popular plant at this time of year. They hail from Central America, particularly Southern Mexico and belong to the euphorbia family. The colourful ‘blooms’ are in fact leaves, not flowers.

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Surfing the net today, I came across this sweet story about the origin of their connection with Christmas:

“There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettias and Christmas come together, it goes like this:
There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.
‘Pepita’, he said “I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy.”

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Pepita didn’t know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.” http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/poinsettia.shtml

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I rather enjoyed another piece of trivia I picked up on the same website: apparently, the plants are named after Joel Robert Poinsett, the USA’s first ambassador to Mexico, who introduced the plant into the USA. Mr Poinsett is also famous for having founded the Smithsonian Institute.

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