The typical Christmas flower arrangement and its native origin

We all know that Christmas tables are full of delicious dishes that we prepare and enjoy as a family. But one element that we also always have on our table and that we rarely talk about is the typical flower arrangement that we put in the center and that overflows with the Christmas spirit in its colors.

Known as “flor de Nochebuena” or “poinsettia”, a name given to it because it was introduced to Western horticulture by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the United States’ first Plenipotentiary Minister to Mexico, from 1825 to 1830.

But the “poinsettia flower” is actually called cuetlaxochitl, which in Nahuatl means “fading flower”. The flower was considered a symbol of purity and was used to treat certain skin conditions, using its leaves. It was grown in the gardens of Nezahualcoyotl and Moctezuma, and was used as an ornament by the Aztecs during the winter solstice festival.

But “Nochebuena” (Christmas Eve) was incorporated by the Franciscan friars of Taxco with the celebration of Christmas because its blooming season falls around the solstice in Mexico – a date that coincides with Christmas.

This was one of the many ways in which foreign customs imposed themselves during colonization through cultural assimilation, using significant references known to the original population and giving them the meaning they wanted them to adopt.

Nowadays, the poinsettia is the most popular houseplant for decorating the Christmas table, and it is considered the flower of friendship in some countries, such as Spain.

Terisa K. Carn