We have come to associate Santa Claus and Poinsettias with Christmas, although both are modern associations. In Taiwan I’ve seen poinsettias grown as woody shrubs. To produce the colored bracts – flowers, the Poinsettia needs several hours of uninterrupted darkness during the final months to bloom. Reminisent of the caterpillar needing time alone in the cacoon before it turns into a butterfly.
Poinsettia was earlier cultivated by the Aztecs who considered it a symbol of purity. It’s blood red color, served as a reminder of the sacrifice the gods had made to create the universe, and the debt to be repaid with human sacrifice. Practical uses include, used to produce a purplish dye as well as using the latex to treat fevers. Although the latex has been known to cause skin irritation.
So when did the Poinsettia become a Christmas flower? Around 1920s. It was introduced to the US from Mexico by then US Ambassador to Mexico Joel Roberts Poinset. Through the marketing efforts of a Paul Ecke, a horticulturist, the Poinsettia moved from an outdoor plant to being a indoor plant associated with Christmas.
A child could not afford a gift to offer Christ on Christmas Eve and picked some wild plants from the side of a road. The child was told that God would accept any humble gift, given in love. The wild flowers turned into brilliant red blooms we now know as the poinsettia, and the people witnessed a Christmas miracle