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There are a few symbols that are simply synonymous with the holiday season – beautifully decorated trees, stockings hung on mantels, Christmas cards, and poinsettias. But have you ever wondered how these seemingly innate objects have become iconic symbols? This Saturday, December 12, is National Poinsettia Day, so we thought we’d celebrate by learning more about the holiday’s most recognizable plant.

A Mexican legend says that the poinsettia and Christmas first came together through a young girl named Pepita. She was upset during a Christmas Eve Service because she didn’t have a present for Baby Jesus. Her cousin, Pedro, tried to cheer her up by telling her, “I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy.”

Pepita took Pedro’s words to heart and picked a handful of weeds by the roadside, then arranged them into a small bouquet. She brought the bouquet into the chapel and set them down in front of the nativity scene. The weeds then transformed into bright, beautiful red flowers. Everyone who saw the flowers were convinced that they witnessed a miracle, and the flowers became known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena,’ or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.

The poinsettia is thought to have come to the United States by a man named Joel Roberts Poinsett in the early 1800s. He was a botanist and statesman discovered them while serving as the first US Minister to Mexico. He was fascinated with the plant that bloomed near Christmas and brought them back to his greenhouses in South Carolina. There, he began growing the plants and sending them to friends as well as botanical gardens.

The poinsettia; however, did not become a holiday staple until nearly 100 years later when the Ecke family began promoting them. Paul Ecke, Jr. sent free poinsettia plants to TV studios, which included “The Tonight Show” and Bob Hope’s holiday specials. The trend eventually caught on and today, the poinsettia has become the official Christmas flower.

Although poinsettias are most commonly seen around the holiday season, you may be surprised to learn that they can actually last all year round. Read through these tips for poinsettia care after Christmas.

There you have it – a brief history of the poinsettia. Are these unique, red plants part of your holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments below!

Happy Poinsettia Day from Lions Pride!