Saturday, December 24, 2011


My stella di Natale or poinsettia - which was a gift - is flecked with cream this year and I love it.  Two years ago, I had the pleasure of writing about the poinsettia legends for Italy Magazine and, for those of you who do not know these tales, I repeat them here:

The poinsettia plant is as much a symbol of Christmas in Italy as the presepe [crib] that is found in almost every home. With their bright red colour and leaves in the form of star points, the plants are loved, carefully tended and are often kept from one year to the next. In Italy they are known as Stelle di Natale [Christmas stars] a name which the Italians adopted from Spanish missionaries in Mexico, where the plant originated. A group of Spanish Franciscan monks working in Mexico used the plants in a Christmas procession for the first time in the seventeenth century and after that the Mexicans started using them in Nativity scenes. It was one Joel Robert Poinsett, US Ambassador to Mexico from 1825 – 1829, who gave the plant its English name and took it to the United States. At Christmas 1899 poinsettia plants were placed in St Peter’s Basilica, drawing admiration from all who saw them.

There are two legends about the poinsettia that you may like to know about. Neither is Italian but – hey- it’s Christmas! The first and most famous concerns a little Mexican girl called Pepita or, in some versions, Lola, or maybe a boy called Pablo. Pepita, on her way to see the annual Nativity scene in her village, suddenly realised she had no offering to take with her that would show her love for the Baby Jesus and she started to cry. At that point, an angel spoke to her and advised her to gather some greens from the roadside, for Jesus would know that they were given with love. Pepita did so but the other children laughed at her gift. Then, all of a sudden, the greens turned into a beautiful, red poinsettia plant.

The other legend is more universal: When God created Nature, he asked all the flowers to give to the humans who chose and tended them the very best of themselves – beauty, love, harmony and wisdom. But there was one plant that nobody wanted, although it tried hard to be chosen, for it had tiny flowers and its leaves were too big. The plant became very sad and in December God saw this. He said, “I know you want to give men beauty, love, harmony and wisdom and, as men need these things, I am going to help you. I will give you my blood and put it on your leaves, which will turn deep red and make you the most beautiful flower on earth in this most important season for man.” And so the plant with the tiny flowers and big leaves became the lovely stella di Natale and ever since, it has brought men beauty, love, harmony and wisdom.

Take care of your “Christmas stars” this year.


Rosaria Williams said...

Buon Natale, Pat.

Unknown said...

Christmas blessing to you and Simi!

Lots of meows from Alex and Sugar!

CherryPie said...

Happy Christmas to you :-)

Dragonstar said...

Such beautiful legends. All the best to you and Simi.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

E altettanto, Rosaria. Thank you, Nick, from both of us and, of course, love and Merry Xmas to you and Alex and Sugar. xxx woof! Thanks, Cherie and Merry Xmas again to you. Thank you, Dragonstar and good wishes to you and yours from Simi and me.

Unknown said...

I can no longer have poinsettias. [:-(honsfogi Alex eats them.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Haha! Never mind, Nick. x


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