Why Are Mistletoe and Poinsettias Christmas Plants?

Why Are Mistletoe and Poinsettias Christmas Plants?

When you think of Christmas, there’s likely a lot of images that run through your mind. Presents, snow, Santa Claus…the list goes on. Two of the things that might also be on that list, though, are mistletoe and poinsettias. Mistletoe is known for the heartwarming tradition of standing under this beautiful greenery and receiving a kiss. Poinsettias say “happy holidays” like no other plant because of their amazingly vivid red color and striking beauty.

Most of us take for granted the beauty and spirit these two plants add to our holiday decor, but how did they make their way into our holiday history books to begin with?  

Let’s begin with the “kissing plant” – MistletoeWhy Are Mistletoe and Poinsettias Christmas Plants?

Though we think of mistletoe as the kissing plant, this small herb has played multiple roles. In fact, it has a history that dates back thousands of years. For the Ancient Greeks, mistletoe was likened to a natural cure-all that was used to assuage all types of illnesses. Nevertheless, it was the Celtic Druids who transformed this healing herb into a sign for romance during the first century C.E.

Mistletoe’s romantic roots began with the plant’s natural ability to bloom and thrive in winter weather. The ancient Druids deemed this ability to blossom in freezing cold temperatures as a message from the gods that the plant was sacred. They began to administer mistletoe in various forms to help with fertility issues. The plant was seen as being vital to life – and creating life.

Exactly how the mistletoe evolved from a plant that enhances fertility to a Christmas tradition is not as clear, however. The tradition may have stemmed from English servants using the plant to celebrate in their own way by hanging the plant under kitchen doorways. The lore was that if you did not kiss after walking under the plant, the year would hold bad luck for you.  

What should we know about Poinsettias?

The poinsettia is a beautiful holiday plant, with its green stems and leaves, and bright red petals. This quintessential holiday plant is native to Central America, particularly southern Mexico, where they bloom in wintertime. Throughout the centuries, poinsettias have been used for a wide variety of purposes. The Aztecs used them, for example, to make clothing dyes and as a natural medicine to treat fevers.

The poinsettia gets its name from a 19th century U.S. ambassador to Mexico – Joel Roberts Poinsett. Poinsett owned greenhouses on his plantation land that he used to send poinsettias out to his friends and family to wish them happy holidays. Poinsett expanded his cultivation efforts of the plant in South Carolina and began sending them out to botanical gardens around the country.

Poinsettias also get their Christmas connection from a Mexican fable about a little girl walking to church on Christmas Eve with no gift to honor the baby Jesus. The little girl’s friend explained to her that the baby Jesus only cared about the thought, and that the gift did not have to be big or costly. The little girl picked a handful of weeds to offer to the baby Jesus and knelt down to place them under a nativity scene. The fable says that the weeds then burst into gorgeous flowers at the little girl’s feet. Those miraculous flowers are known today as poinsettias.

At Mills Florist, we have a wide selection of holiday floral arrangements, centerpieces and even wreaths to help spread the holiday cheer. Check out our Christmastime selections online now or call us today at 650-326-3443 to learn more.