Poinsettia Flower Meaning, Symbolism of Each Color and Uses

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Chime in the Christmas cheer and bring out the Holiday feasts, it is almost that very merry and special time of the year! And what other way to better decorate the Holiday season than with some beautiful Hollies and can you guess? The very gorgeous, brilliant flower poinsettia! 

These velvet-like ornamental flowers come with more surprise than the gifts you see under the Christmas tree! So, better watch out and not forget to add these to your home during the Holidays!

Its meaning and symbolism are also quite exciting. Although first appearing as green flowers, a poinsettia turns red when it matures which symbolizes sacrifice. A white one represents purity. A pink and yellow poinsettia means feminine beauty and bounty.

History of the Poinsettia Plant

Although the discovery of poinsettias does not date as far back as when Christmas was first celebrated, it makes up with very rich and long history. The first discovery was debuted by the ancient Aztecs in the 15th century. They referred to these flowers as cuitlaxochitl meaning the star flower. 

In modern-day botany, the poinsettias were first defined in 1836 as floral clusters surrounded by showy and colorful red leaves with bright red berries. The name poinsettia was honored after Joel Roberts Poinsett – an American diplomat and amateur botanist who discovered the flowers in 1828. It became a popular Philadelphia flower because of the festival held in its honor. 

The poinsettias belong to the Euphorbia or Spurge genus of the Euphorbiaceae family. It is well known as a Holiday plant because of the special magic in its red and green bracts – it changes color during Wintertime! And don’t be fooled – the flowers are actually the small buds in the very center of the plant called the cyathia

Scientifically, the poinsettia is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima or the Mexican Flame Leaf meaning the most beautiful. It is also called the K’alul wits or ember flower for the ancient Aztecs.

The poinsettia is native to Mexico (specifically southern Mexico) and Central America. These flowers originated from the quaint little town of Taxco de Alarcón in Mexico. Natives call this special flower the Christmas Star Flower or the Flor de Pascua or Flor de Noche Buena.

Over time, the flowers were hybridized and improved. Floral interventions started when cuttings were shipped from Guatemala and El Salvador to Europe and the United States. It was in southern California where the Ecke family began playing with the red flower’s genes to create new hybrids.

Symbolism of Poinsettia Blossoms

Since the beginning of time for the poinsettias, these have always symbolized the Christmas Holidays and their joyous festivities. It’s no wonder where the Holiday color motif comes from – the red bracts, green leaves, and yellow cyathia of this Christmas flower! 

The poinsettia is also known as the December birth flower and has its own national holiday on December 12th.

For the Hindus in Nepa and India, the Christmas Star Flower is a symbol of the female life force – resembling her beauty. 

Meanwhile, early Europeans regarded such blossoms as the special red garb of Father Christmas. 

The ancient Aztecs also held a special symbol behind the Poinsettias. For their people, it was symbolic of a new life earned by brave warriors who died during the battle. 

These Christmas flowers with its red and green bracts are symbols of purity before the Christmas season!

red poinsettia

Meaning of Poinsettia Flowers

The poinsettia meaning has more to it than just being holiday flowers. The meaning behind the Christmas Star Flower truly has jolly and cheerful meanings behind them. For instance, the language of flowers regards these as florals of good and merry cheer! 

Some even believe these flowers mean purity – a mortal flower that perishes and withers just like all things that are pure. 

Poinsettias don’t only come in red and green colors. In fact, here are some of the many colors of poinsettia and the meaning behind each.

What does a White Poinsettia Flower Mean?

White Christmas Star Flowers send the meaning of forgiveness and embodies a sense of purity, just like the Holy Family in the manger. 

What does a Red Poinsettia Blossom Symbolize?

Red Poinsettias are symbolic of the merriment and festivities during the Holiday season. It is also best not to forget that this blossom symbolizes sacrifice.

What does a Pink Poinsettia Floret Indicate?

Christmas Star Flowers with pink petals indicate the splendor of the Christmas season and of course – the birth of Jesus Christ. Additionally, such pink poinsettias also indicate feminine beauty.

What does a Yellow Poinsettia Bloom Represent?

Although these are small yellow flowers, it holds an important importance during the holiday season. It serves as a reminder to give thanks for all the bounty and blessings received.

It just so happens that yellow poinsettias present just that – gratitude. And what comes after being thankful? Being happy of course!

What is the Cultural Significance of a Poinsettia Flower?

The Christmas season is the most beautiful time of the year – no doubt about that! In Mexico, a special feast is traditionally celebrated every 12th of December and Poinsettias are the star of the show! 

National poinsettia day or also known as the Day of the Lady of Guadalupe – is honored yearly as the flower of Christmas Eve. The feast was first celebrated after the American ambassador to Mexico Joel Poinsett discovered the plant.

Not surprisingly, there is also a Poinsettia Day celebrated in the United States on the 12th of December and is the most sold flower in South Carolina! Unlike the festivities in Mexico such as the Fiesta of Santa Pesebre, this was celebrated in honor of Paul Ecke Jr. – the man who first discovered how to mass-produce the plants through seeds. 

The flowers are also culturally known as the Star of Bethlehem because of its leaf shape and the red color. It is commonly decorated during winter celebrations especially at the church altar near the nativity of the baby Jesus. 

What is the Biblical Meaning of a Poinsettia Blossom?

Since it is the Christmas Star Flower, there is no doubt about its meaning in the Holy Bible. The Poinsettias – specifically the ones with red bracts, symbolizes the Virgin Mother Mary and her beauty. Additionally, it is also symbolic of the blood of Christ when He was crucified and died on the Holy Cross. 

The most common association of this blossom is with the birth of Jesus Christ in the Nativity. It is a reminder of everlasting life and a savior as in God’s promise. The Poinsettias are also then known as the flower of the Holy Night that shined during the first Christmas. 

What is the Folktale Associated with a Poinsettia Floret?

Poinsettias are the favorite flower during the holiday season. In the quaint town of Taxco de Alarcón in Mexico, there is a Mexican legend that goes on about how the Christmas Star Flower acquired its fame during the Holidays and its decorations in the Nativity!

According to the Mexican folktale, there were once two children who were siblings – a little girl and boy, who were poor and had nothing to offer to the Church Nativity during Christmas Eve. Seeing the beauty of the poinsettias, the siblings placed a green flower on the Nativity. 

To everyone’s surprise on Christmas morning, the once green poinsettias suddenly changed colors – turning into a deep red floral offering symbolizing thanks. Truly a story that up to this day is a custom during Christmas! Just spectacular! 

What does a Poinsettia Floral Tattoo Symbolize?

Just like some flowers, a Poinsettia floral tattoo is a rare design to choose from amongst the many florals of the world. Embodying this floral tattoo symbolizes good cheer not only during the Christmas season but also all year round. Additional to this, it also symbolizes the glee and gratitude inside the mind and heart.

Uses of Poinsettia Plants

You do not only see poinsettias as festive decorations in the scenes of the Nativity. In fact, it wasn’t until the 16th century that these flowers were first used during Christmas. Some also prefer these florals as potted plants they can use for other festive decorations. Poinsettias are also amazing cut flowers used to decorate homes.

Aside from its horticultural use, it also has folkloric and traditional medicinal purposes. For example, the ancient Aztecs used the milky white suds from the flower as medicine for fever. They also extracted the bract pigment to use as a dye for make-up and clothing. 

Meanwhile, the Nepali women of Mexico traditionally made a tea infusion from the sepals to stimulate women who were breastfeeding. They also used the latex from the plant as a remedy for skin boils and sores. A word of warning that it’s a must to always consult a medical professional before using this plant or any part of it for medical purposes.

~ image source: depositphotos/AntonioGravante

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