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The Mexican Christmas Flower



Nochebuena Flower

© Suzanne Barbezat
In the United States, soon after Thanksgiving is celebrated stores and establishments put out their Christmas decorations and radios begin playing Christmas music. In Mexico the coming of the Christmas season is announced by the blooming of the Flor de Nochebuena, the Poinsettia. Perhaps the best known of Mexican flowers, the Nochebuena blooms in November and December. It grows at its best in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, where it can reach up to twelve feet in height!

The Nahuatl (Aztec) name for this plant is Cuetlaxochitl, which means "flower with leather petals" and it was believed to represent the new life that warriors attain in battle. The Poinsettia gets its name in English from the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who brought the first samples of the plant to the United States.

Christmas Flower Legend
There is a legend surrounding the Poinsettia. A poor peasant girl was going to mass on Christmas Eve ("Noche Buena" in Spanish, which literally means a "good night"). She was very sad because she didn't have a gift to present to baby Jesus. On her way to the church she gathered a few plants to take with her. When she arrived at the church she offered the plants she carried and realized that they had turned from green to bright red.

Learn more about Poinsettias:

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