Here’s The Indigenous Origin Of The Holiday’s Iconic Poinsettia Flower
Poinsettias are an iconic part of almost every Christmas display. The red and green foliage mixes in perfectly with the Christmas color scheme lending itself to the iconic status of Christmas plant. The plant is indigenous to Mexico and its history is long and important.
The poinsettia plant has a place in indigenous Mexican celebration.
The poinsettia, also known as cuetlaxochitl in Nahuatl, has long been a part of Aztec and Mexican cultures. The plant was known as noche buena and was used in various ways from cooking to medicine to celebrations. The biggest celebration was the celebration of Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, the sun, and human sacrifice.
The red flower came to represent the blood shed in war and in human sacrifice for Huitzilopochtli.
The Huitzilopochtli celebration is the winter solstice. After colonization, Catholics imported Christmas and replaced the celebration of Huitzilopochtli after converting the native populations. They continued to use the poinsettias to decorate for the celebration, a tradition that stuck.
The poinsettia had medicinal properties back in the day.
Noche buenas offered indigenous communities a medicine for several ailments. According to the TikTok, the poinsettia was beneficial for women when it came to lactating and with their menstrual cramps. Other uses for the plant included dyes and textiles. The flower, of course, was grown for its beauty.
Over the years, the poinsettia has been bred, stored, and harvested for its beauty, not its medicinal properties. Instead, the plant, which is as important to Christmas as the Christmas tree, has become harvested strictly for its beauty around the holiday season.
The poinsettia has multiple origin stories.
One of the stories is about a young girl in Olinalá, Guerrero. The legend says that a young girl had nothing to offer baby Jesus other than some weeds. In her desperation an angel visited her. She was told to take the weeds to the church and present them to the baby Jesus. The girl was sad and embarrassed and began to cry. When her tears hit the weeds, beautiful red flowers started to bloom from them. These were the first noche buenas.
Mexico is crucial in supplying the plant for the holiday season.
Mexico exports around 40 million poinsettias every year. The poinsettia has now been bred to include versions with pink, white, and blue leaves. The plant, native to southern Mexico and Central America, is just one piece of the holiday celebration and we have Mexico to thank for its important place in the holiday season.
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