poinsettia meaning

Poinsettia Flower Meaning and Symbolism

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It’s Christmastime, and what do you see in the storefront of just about every shop you pass? Besides sprigs of holly and bright, twinkling lights, you’re likely to see explosive, colorful arrangements of poinsettias, too.

These lovely, breathtaking flowers are common during the holiday season. However, do you know why? The poinsettia has a deep cultural and symbolic meaning. Here’s what you need to know.

What Does Poinsettia Mean? 

The common name “poinsettia” was first used in the early 1800s, with the name derived from that of Joel Roberts Poinsett, a botanist and the first US Minister to Mexico. 

This man sent poinsettias from Mexico back to greenhouses that he owned in South Carolina. Before it’s renaming as the poinsettia, the plant was known as the “painted leaf” or the “Mexican flame flower.” Its scientific name is Euphorbia pulcherrima.

red poinsettia

What Do Poinsettias Symbolize? 

Poinsettias have long been known for their Christmas affiliations. In Fact, the plant first became associated with the holiday during the 1500s in Guatemala and Mexico. 

Here, a legend held that a girl named Maria was too poor to be able to offer a gift for the holidays. She was told by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside instead. 

When she placed the weeds by the church altar, crimson blossoms sprouted and later turned into poinsettias. From that point on, Franciscan friars began to use the plant sun holiday celebrations, as the star pattern of the leaves could symbolize the Star of Bethlehem while the red color symbolizes the sacrifice of the crucifixion. 

Typically found in shades of red, this plant can also be grown to produce green, white, and pink blooms, too. Regardless of the color, poinsettia flowers possess similar meanings. For the most part, these flowers symbolize success, good cheer, and even purity (although this latter meaning is no longer quite as common). 

What is the Cultural Significance of a Poinsettia?

Interestingly, the Aztecs were the first people to cultivate poinsettias. In the United States, cultivation of these plants did not begin until Joel Poinsett sent plants home to South Carolina 

The Aztecs originally used poinsettias to produce dyes and also as antipyretic medications. The plant, in the ancient language of the Aztecs known as Nahuatl, is known as Cuetlaxochitl, which means “flower that grows in residues or soil.” 

In Mexico, the poinsettia is prized as the Christmas Eve flower, while in Peru and Chile, it is known as the Crown of the Andes. In Spain, the poinsettia is a traditional Easter flower. 

pink poinsettia

What is the Symbolism of a Poinsettia Tattoo?

Poinsettia tattoos aren’t all about Christmas, but you’ll find that these tattoos are usually closely linked to the holiday season. Poinsettia tattoos can help you unfold the magic of the holidays and bring it to life right on your skin. 

If you’re born in December or wish to commemorate someone born in December with your tattoos, then this flower will also be a sharp choice. 

When Should You Give Someone a Poinsettia?

Poinsettias are appropriate flowers during the holiday season, but you could really give someone one of these illustrious blooms at any time of the year. Since they hold up well in floral arrangements, the flowers are often given as gifts during the Christmas season.

They are also the birth flower of December, making them an appropriate birthday gift for someone celebrating a birthday in this month, too.

Image by elwynn/depositphotos

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