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The plant par excellence of the Christmas period:

The Christmas Star Plant

Vita gazette – The Christmas star is one of the typical symbols of the end-of-year holidays. But why?

The plant par excellence of the Christmas period: This plant is also known by the name of “Poinsettia” or by the scientific name “Euphorbia pulcherrima”.

But why is it customary to give it as a gift at Christmas? Why is Poinsettia associated with the Christmas period? The link between the Christmas Star and the Christmas holidays has its roots in an ancient Central American legend. The custom originates from an old Mexican legend. Once upon a time, a poor Mexican girl named Pepita didn’t have a gift to offer to Jesus. The little girl was sad and gloomy; her cousin Pedro suggested that she bring some weeds as a gift because even the most humble gift if made with love, will be welcome in the eyes of Jesus. Pepita followed her cousin’s advice, and as soon as she donated the humble bouquet, it turned into an incredible Christmas Star. After that miracle, the Christmas Star became the Christmas plant because the red colour recalls Christmas and the Blood of Christ. During Christmas mass, star-shaped red flowers emerged from the bouquet. For this reason, the plant is known in Mexico by the expression “Flor de Noche Buena”, i.e. the “Flower of the Holy Night”.

Moving from legend to history, the Christmas Star landed in Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century thanks to the German scholar Alexander Von Humboldt, who brought it with him to Berlin on his return from a long expedition to South America. Poinsettia comes from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first US ambassador to Mexico, who imported the plant to the USA in 1825.

But despite the passing of decades, the meaning of the Christmas Star associated with giving, love and December 25th has remained unchanged and is still alive today. Its shape, which recalls that of a stylised star and its typical red shades, perfectly matches the Christmas atmosphere. Therefore, a Christmas star under the tree is a symbol of love and dedication, which is why it is often used as a holiday gift.

The scientific name Euphorbia pulcherrima is a compliment; in fact, Pulcherrima means beautiful. Known as Poinsettia, it is an ornamental plant native to Mexico, a country where it grows spontaneously and where, in the wild, it can reach a height of up to four metres.

Contrary to what one might imagine, the flowers of this plant are small and yellow. They are located in the centre of the red bracts, i.e. the characteristic leaves accompanying the inflorescences. These red petals, typical of the Christmas Star, can also be white or pink: two equally suggestive shades.

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