National Poinsettia Day
When is National Poinsettia Day? This holiday is always observed on December 12
On this December 12 holiday, we celebrate a beautiful seasonal flower and John Poinsett who brought them to the United States. Beautiful Poinsettia flowers are a well-recognized symbol of the Christmas season. National Poinsettia Day was officially declared by an Act of Congress. It is in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who died on December 12, 1851. Joel Roberts Poinsett was the first Ambassador to Mexico He was also a botanist and a physician. He was fascinated by this bright flower de saw blooming in December in Mexico. Poinsett brought this colorful plant back to his plantation in the U.S. He grew the plants in his Greenville, S.C plantation and gave them out as gifts to friends.
According to Mexican folklore, there is a story of a little poor girl who had nothing to bring to church for Christmas. On her way to church, she picked some plants by the side of the road. As she entered the church, the leaves at the tips of the branches, called bracts, turned into bright, brilliant red flowers. You guessed it… they were Poinsettias.
About Poinsettia Flowers
Originally from Mexico and Central America, Poinsettia plants are by far the most popular flower plants during Christmas. As a matter of fact, they are the largest flowering plant crop in the U.S. with sales of over 63 million pots! Native to the warmer southwestern U.S. climates and Mexico, Poinsettias are susceptible to cold and frost. So, when you bring them home in cold weather, make sure to bring them right home. Don’t leave them in your car and go back to your Christmas shopping.
Purchasing Tip: When selecting plants, choose ones with leaves that are fully in bloom. The long-lasting blooms take a while to produce full color. Once they do, they’ll last for several weeks, usually well beyond Christmas and New Year.
There are over 100 varieties of this plant. These perennial plants actually are a shrub that can grow 10-15 feet in the wild. The traditional red poinsettias plants are by far the most popular. There are several other colors, including pink, white, salmon, yellow, and multi-colored bracts
Did You Know? Poinsettias are sometimes called the “Christmas Plants”. In Chile and Peru, Poinsettias are called the “Crown of the Andes”.
The Legend of the Christmas Poinsettia
According to old Mexican folklore, on Holy Night (Christmas Eve), the children bring gifts to church for the Christ Child. A poor peasant girl had no gift to bring. People told her not to worry, as it is the thought that counts. But, this was not enough for her. So, along the way to church, she picked some weeds to give to the Christ Child. As she entered the church, the weeds were transformed into beautiful flowers. She held an armful of red poinsettias. This is how poinsettias became an important floral symbol of the holiday season.
- Poinsettias area also called “Christmas Plant”, “Lobster Flower” and “Flame-Leaf Flower”.
- The flowers are actually leaves called “Brachts”.
- Red is the most popular flower color. However, there are many other colors, including white, pink, green, salmon, blue, purple, and yellow. The are bi-color and variegated varieties, too.
- Botanists develop different colors by varying the amount of light the bracts receive.
- German botanist Wilenow gave the poinsettia its botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima, which means “very beautiful.”
- They are the highest-selling potted flowering plant in America.
- The top producing state is California.
- During Joel Roberts Poinsett’s day, many botanists considered the plant to be a weed.
- Leaves can measure 6 to 8 inches across.
- The sticky white sap causes skin irritation in some people.
- The Aztecs used the sap to control fevers and the red bracts for making red dye.
- Poinsettias can be “forced” to bloom in future years. See How to Force Poinsettias
- In the wild, the plants can grow up to 15 feet tall.
How to Celebrate National Poinsettia Day
- Purchase these flowers for your home.
- Give them as gifts to people.
- Learn how to grow poinsettias.
- Decorate with them.
- Are you an artist? Paint or draw pictures with them.
- Take high-quality pictures of them. Then, frame the pictures and display them on a wall in your house.
- Learn about the life and history of Joel Roberts Poinsett.
Thought for Today
“Anyone can win, unless there happens to be a second entry.”
History and Origin of National Poinsettia Day
Our research has not yet identified an individual who created this special December 12 holiday honoring and giving recognition to Joel Roberts Poinsett and the beautiful Poinsettia flowers.
This special day was established by an act of the U.S. Congress. Resolution H Res. 471 was voted on and approved by the U.S. Congress on July 22, 2002. In the resolution is stated that “December 12 has been traditionally recognized as National Poinsettia Day for over 150 years”. So, Congress made this longstanding holiday official.
More December 12 Holidays
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