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
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.