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By Witchipedia, Herbs

Poinsettia: Folklore, Healing & Spiritual Uses

Updated on:

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Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)

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Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a tropical shrub in the spurge family that is native to Mexico and nearby countries. Poinsettias “flowers” are actually brightly colored bracts that surround the true flower clusters which are small and yellow and not much to look at.

Other names: Christmas Star, Noche Buena, Flor de Pascua, Pascua, Easter Flower, Mexican flame leaf, Crown of the Andes

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Poinsettias have a rich history and are associated with Mexican folklore, where they are known as “Flores de Noche Buena,” or Flowers of the Holy Night, due to their use in Christmas traditions.

These vibrant plants are native to Mexico and are now widely cultivated around the world, with careful attention to their growth requirements, such as proper lighting, temperature, and watering to thrive.

Beyond their ornamental appeal, poinsettias have spiritual significance, symbolizing purity, transformation, and new beginnings in various cultures.

While poinsettias are primarily known for their decorative qualities, they also have potential healing properties, with some herbal remedies using their extracts for managing certain health issues.

Poinsettia History and Folklore

Poinsettia, also known as the Christmas star, has a fascinating history and folklore. Its scientific name was given by botanist Carl Ludwig Willdenow in 1833, while the nickname “Christmas star” came from Johann Friedrich Klotzsch in 1834. In Türkiye, it’s called the Atatürk Flower after General Mustafa Kemal’s favorite flower.

Legend has it that the Aztecs believed the plant originated from the blood of a broken-hearted goddess. Its red flowers were used for dye and sap for medicine. Another Mexican legend tells of a poor girl who, guided by angels, brings garden branches to church, which miraculously transform into poinsettias on the altar, hence its name “Flowers of the Holy Night.”

Named after Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, a US ambassador to Mexico, the plant was brought to the US in 1812. December 12 is celebrated as Poinsettia Day, honoring its introduction. Introduced to Europe in the early 19th century, it gained popularity as a Christmas plant, especially due to German Paul Ecke’s marketing efforts in the 20th century. Today, it’s a festive staple in homes worldwide.

Folklore AspectDescription
Christmas TraditionPoinsettias are strongly associated with the Christmas season in many cultures, particularly in North America. Legend has it that a young Mexican girl, unable to afford a gift for Jesus’ birthday, gathered weeds from the roadside and placed them at the church altar. Miraculously, the weeds blossomed into beautiful red flowers, symbolizing the Christmas miracle.
Mexican LegendIn Mexico, Poinsettias are known as “Flores de Noche Buena” or “Flowers of the Holy Night,” in reference to their association with Christmas Eve. According to Mexican folklore, Poinsettias first bloomed at the feet of a poor girl named Pepita, who was inspired by an angel to present weeds as a gift to the baby Jesus.
Symbol of CelebrationPoinsettias are seen as symbols of celebration, joy, and renewal during the holiday season. Their vibrant red and green foliage brightens homes, churches, and public spaces, serving as a reminder of the spirit of Christmas and the hope of new beginnings in the coming year.
Table 1: Folklore and Cultural Significance

Growing Poinsettias

A short time after your poinsettia comes home, its leaves will begin to fall off. Don’t worry. Cut the plant back by half and place it in a sheltered, shady spot and water only when the soil becomes dry.

In the summer, re-pot the poinsettia and place it in a bright spot out of direct sunlight and increase watering slightly but do not allow it to become waterlogged.

It should begin to leaf out again. To encourage the return of its brightly colored bracts, place your poinsettia in complete darkness for at least 12 hours per night and ensure that it gets plenty of indirect sunlight during the day.

Do not allow your poinsettia to get chilled. Keep it in temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. You may place it outdoors in a spot with filtered sunlight if temperatures are favorable.

Poinsettia image 2

Spiritual Uses of Poinsettia

Poinsettia is an appropriate decoration for winter solstice celebrations. Choose white, pink or red poinsettias based on the color energy you wish to bring to your ceremony.

Its symbolism

According to a popular story, a very poor child was sad that he or she (depending on the teller) did not have a gift to present the baby Jesus at the nativity play at the church.  

She was inspired to pick weeds from the roadside and laid them before the manger where they grew and became bright poinsettia plants. Poinsettias were first introduced to the United States by Ambassador Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1825.

The color and its meaning

The intense red of the bracts is a typical Christmas color, and the leaves’ shape is reminiscent of the Star of Bethlehem. It’s not just about this, though. According to the Aztecs, in fact, this plant symbolizes purity, a concept dear to Christianity.

At Christmas, we should all try to be better, to demonstrate the purity of our feelings, to love others with all of ourselves, with humility, respect, and wisdom.

And it is precisely for this reason that the Christmas star is considered the perfect plant for the holidays, capable of symbolizing all of this.

Spiritual AspectDescription
ProtectionPoinsettias are believed to possess protective energies that ward off negative influences and bring blessings to the home. Placing Poinsettias near entrances or windows is thought to create a barrier against malevolent spirits and attract positive energy into the space.
Love and HarmonyIn some spiritual traditions, Poinsettias are associated with love, harmony, and emotional well-being. They are used in rituals and ceremonies to promote peace, reconciliation, and unity among family members, friends, and loved ones.
Spiritual GrowthPoinsettias symbolize spiritual growth, transformation, and renewal. Their vibrant red color represents the life force and vitality of the spirit, while their green foliage symbolizes growth, abundance, and the cycle of life. Working with Poinsettias in meditation or ritual can help individuals connect with their inner strength, resilience, and spiritual potential.
Table 2: Spiritual and Symbolic Uses

Healing with Poinsettia

Poinsettia latex has been used to induce vomiting. A poultice of the leaves has been used for aches and pains. Both methods are potentially very uncomfortable.

Other Uses for Poinsettia

The latex has been used as a hair remover in Mexico and a red dye may be obtained from the bracts.

Is Poinsettia Toxic?

Poinsettia is mildly toxic and may cause diarrhea and vomiting if ingested, but is not considered dangerous.

It may also cause skin irritation and temporary blindness if you get it in your eyes. Poinsettia sap contains latex and can cause reactions in allergic individuals.

Conclusion

Poinsettia is a beautiful symbol of rebirth, hope and purity. Use it to decor your home, as a gift to someone special or use it to celebrate winter solstice and its blessings.

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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