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"The Legend of the Poinsettia"
by Rose Austin

 

Clinging to this colorful and most popular Christmas plant is also a very sacred legend. The early inhabitants of Mexico tell most earnestly that in Cuernavaca, Mexico, it was the custom for every church and chapel to have a manger in which lay an image of the Infant Savior.

On Christmas Eve the village folk flocked into these places to decorate it in His honor with flowers.

On one Christmas Eve, in the outer district of Cuernavaca, a small dark-eyed child grieved and mourned because she had no flowers to take to the manger of the Christ.  But as she cried, a beautiful angel appeared before her and said, "Lovely child, weep no more.  Go pluck a weed from the roadside, bring it to the alter, and wait."  The little girl arose and did as the angel had told her, and when she had placed her weed on the alter it immediately became a vivid scarlet whorl.  And today the Mexicans will tell you that is the reason why the poinsettia is today the most prized of all Mexican flowers for the beloved Christmastide.

But do all the lovers of the poinsettia in the United Sates know for whom it was named?

We are indebted to Joel R. Poinsettia of  South Carolina, for the discovery of the colorful Christmas plant.  In March 1825, he was appointed the first American Minister of Mexico; while there he found a simple and attractive green weed which had as its flower a bunch of yellow pods that formed the center of a scarlet whorl.  In 1836 after it was brought to the United States, this weed was recognized by the country's leading botanists as a very rare flower and while its botanical name is Euphorbia Pulcherrima, the botanists named it poinsettia after the famous Southerner, former Secretary of War and United States first Minister to Mexico.

 

 

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