December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.
A charming legend is told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As she walked slowly to the chapel, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy. Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back the tears as she entered the small village chapel and slowly knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season. That night, the legend of the poinsettia was born. (There are variations of this legend, but all have the same ending.)
NAME ORIGIN: Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851) was appointed as the first United States Ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829) by President Madison. (Mr. Poinsett later founded the institution that we know today as the Smithsonian Institution). While visiting Mexico in 1828, he became enchanted by the brilliant red blooms he saw there and immediately sent some of the plants back to his plantations in South Carolina. They were grown in his hot houses there, and he began sending them to friends and other botanical gardens. Around 1836, the name poinsettia was given to the plant honoring the man who first brought it to the United States. After his death in 1851, Congress honored Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day. Since that time, the poinsettia has been known as the Christmas flower, now available in red, pink, and white.
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