The Legend of the Poinsettia

    The legend of the poinsettia comes from Mexico. It tells of a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo. They were very poor but always looked forward to the Christmas festival. Each year a large manger scene was set up in the village church, and the days before Christmas were filled with parades and parties. The two children loved Christmas, but were always saddened because they had no money to buy presents. They especially wished that they could give something to the church for the Baby Jesus. But they had nothing.

    One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo set out for church to attend the service. On their way they picked some weeds growing along the roadside and decided to take them as their gift to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene. Of course they were teased by other children when they arrived with their gift, but they said nothing for they knew they had given what they could. Maria and Pablo began placing the green plants around the manger and miraculously, the green top leaves turned into bright red petals, and soon the manger was surrounded by beautiful star-like flowers and so we see them today.

    Here is another version of the legend of the Poinsettia

    A charming story is told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy.

    "I am sure, Pepita, that even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes," said Pedro consolingly.

    Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back a tear as she entered the small village chapel.

    As she approached the alter, she remembered Pedro's kind words: "Even the most humble gift, if given in love, will be acceptable in His eyes." She felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.

    Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.

    From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season.

    Today, the common name for this plant is the poinsettia!

    The poinsettia was cultivated by the Aztecs of Mexico long before the introduction of Christianity to the Western Hemisphere. During the 17th century, Franciscan priests in Mexico began to use the flower in nativity processions because of its brilliant color and holiday bloom, A favorite flower in many countries with its beautiful red, star-shaped flower. It is called the "Flame Leaf" in Central America or "Flower of the Holy Night". Poinsettias were first introduced into the United States in 1825 by Joel Robert Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Poinsett, a skilled botanist, had some plants sent to his home in Greenville, S.C. After establishing the plants in his own greenhouse, he began to send them to various botanical gardens and fellow horticulturists.

    They eventually reached Robert Buist, a nurseryman, who first sold the plant as Euphorbia poinsettia, although a German botanist had already given the plant the botanical name Euphorbia pulcherima. The poinsettia, however, remains the accepted name in English-speaking countries. Most of the poinsettias now come from California.


    Read our Christmas Favorites
    Tomi de Paola's Legend of the Poinsettia
    Have your children read it together!



    Place a poinsettia plant in the center of a table. Have the children examine it carefully. Point out that the blooms are actually leaves.


    Make Poinsettia's

    Outline three double sets of leaves on red construction paper by using a black marker. Double sets of leaves should be around 6" long and narrow. The two leaves should look identical to each other, but face in opposite directions. Cut around the black line leaving a little red showing around the edges. Glue the three sets of leaves together in the center so that it looks like six leaves. put the poinsettia in a box lid. Put glue in a circle in the center of the poinsettia and sprinkle on the silver or gold glitter. Shake off the extra glitter making sure to keep it in the box lid. Place a piece of double-sided tape on the back of your flower and attach it to a window, wall or door.

    Another Idea

    Make poinsettia napkin rings. Use a 1" by 4" piece of green felt. Join the ends to make a loop. Glue a silk poinsettia bloom to the place where you joined the felt.

    and another idea

    Make The Legend of the Poinsettia Cards by using the stamp from top picture. Go to Catholic Rubber Stamping to order.


    Discuss special gifts. Have children write about a gift they could give if they had no money to buy one.

    Write a story about the Poinsettia legend in your own words. Use your imagination


    The 2006 Christmas Play Award went to Christine Brennan and the Children's Summer Club, based in Barnstaple, Devon, UK. The class spent an afternoon during autumn half term making stick puppets for their 2006 Christmas project. The children presented 2 puppet shows in December to children in their local hospital and hospice. The second show was on 10 December - the nearest date they could get to National Poinsettia Day. The children wanted to do a Christmas play that was unique! Their puppeteers dressed in Mexican costumes or as flowers, and the narrator was dressed as a town crier.

    Christine said the puppet shows were very successful and the children received lovely thank you cards from the South West Children's Hospice. After their preformance they gave the hosts a copy of the Christmas play, "The Legend of Poinsettia" along with instructions on how to make the puppets so that they could preform their own play.

    This photo was taken at the Children's Hospice South West, Fremington, Barnstaple. (photo consent has been obtained from the parents of all the children pictured.)

    Just 4 Kids Magazine presented this award to the class because of the creative idea and the wonderful way that the Children's Summer Club reached out in love to their community to touch the lifes in the hospital during the Christmas season. CONGRATULATIONS!

    Members of Just 4 Kids Magazine can read the play and instructions on making the puppets by CLICKING HERE

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Pointsettia in frame made by Vicki

Poinsettia background by All4FreeGraphics