‘Ask Evan’: “Why are poinsettia Christmas plants?”

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This week's 'Ask Evan question deals with holiday plants.  Pauline A asks, "Why are poinsettia considered holiday plants?"

Poinsettia plants are native to Central America, especially an area of Southern Mexico where they flower during the winter.  The plant's association with Christmas began in 16th-century Mexico, where Mexican legend tells of a girl, commonly called Pepita or Maria, who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday and was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar.

Legend says 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 'flowers of the holy night'.

From the 17th century, Franciscan Friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations.  The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the star of Bethlehem which led the wise men to Jesus.  The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.

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