Whether it’s the prickles of the holly plant, romantic allure of mistletoe or the brilliant red of a poinsettia, there are certain flowers and foliage that will be forever associated with the festive period. Here, we reveal the stories and true meanings behind some of the most popular Christmas flowers and plants.
At first glance it is easy to see why the poinsettia is so inextricably linked to Christmas. It’s brightly coloured bracts simply brim with festive cheer. The plant’s association with the festive season however runs deeper than simply the colour of its leaves. According to Mexican legend, the poinsettia was born when a poor girl, on her way to a church service on Christmas Eve, gathered weeds from the roadside. Despite having no worldly possessions to offer, she wanted to give a gift to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, a Christmas miracle occurred. The weeds in her hands burst into brilliant red blooms. From that day on, in Mexico, the poinsettia has been known as ‘Flores de Noche Buena’ or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night.’
Credit: Stars for Europe
Mistletoe is a popular plant for decorating the home at Christmastime and is often hung in doorways. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is thought to derive from Norse mythology. According to one version of the legend, when Baldr the Beautiful was killed by an arrow made of mistletoe, his mother’s tears on the arrow turned into white berries which healed his wound and brought him back to life. Filled with elation, his mother then blessed the mistletoe plant and vowed to kiss all who passed beneath it.
The amaryllis is a tall, striking flower which typically produces red or white blooms. Unlike a lot of other Christmas flowers, the amaryllis doesn’t have a legend behind it, instead its meaning is defined by the Victorian language of flowers. The amaryllis was quite revered in Victorian times and carries strong associations of pride. During the Victorian era proud women were thought to be beautiful so this was certainly a compliment to the amaryllis.
Holly is closely associated with Christmas and is typically used in the creation of Christmas wreaths and festive garlands. The idea of decorating your home with holly for Christmas dates back to ancient Druids. They believed that the protective qualities of the plant would safe guard them against bad luck and evil spirits. For Christians the holly plant is steeped in symbolism too. The prickly leaves are said to represent the suffering of Christ and the bright red berries, drops of blood from the ultimate sacrifice.
Christmas rose (Hellebore)
The flower known as the Christmas rose is not actually a rose but is in fact a member of the buttercup family. It gets its common name from its resemblance to wild roses and has large and usually white or dark red petals. The story behind the Christmas rose starts with a little shepherd named Madelon who, on a cold and icy night, saw the three wise men and shepherds passing her field to bear gifts for the new-born king. Upset that she did not have a gift of her own to offer Madelon began to cry, then suddenly an angel appeared and brushed away the snow to reveal beautiful dainty white flowers. Madelon gathered them up and presented them to the baby Jesus.