Christmas 2021 Message from RVing with Rex

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Long before there was a Grinch who stole Christmas, there was Krampus, the devilish half-man, half-goat that helps out jolly St. Nicholas by stuffing naughty Austrian children in sacks and dragging them to hell. Yes, the true history of Christmas is as colorful as your neighbor’s flashing and strobing house light display.

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The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back to a monk named St. Nicholas who was born in Turkey around 280 AD. St. Nicholas gave away all his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick and became known as the protector of children and sailors.

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St. Nicholas first entered American popular culture in the late 18th century in New York when Dutch families gathered to honor the anniversary of the death of “Sint Nikolaas” (Dutch for Saint Nicholas), or “Sinter Klaas” for short. “Santa Claus” draws his name from this abbreviation.

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In 1822, Episcopal minister Clement Clarke Moore wrote a Christmas poem called An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas, more popularly known today by its first line: ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. The poem depicted Santa Claus as a jolly man who flies from home to home on a sled driven by reindeer to deliver toys.

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The iconic version of Santa Claus as a jolly man in red with a white beard and a sack of toys was immortalized in 1881 when political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem to create the image of Old Saint Nick that we know today.

Related Article: When You Are in Need of a Christmas Miracle

Oh, so sorry to break the harsh news, but Santa isn’t real. Yep, he’s just a sales pitch for Big Soda.

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Don’t take it from us—that’s what a Catholic bishop in Sicily told a dismayed group of children earlier this month, per the New York Times. In fact, “The red color of his coat was chosen by Coca-Cola for advertising purposes,” Bishop Antonio Staglianò said.

Just wait until they find out the Grinch is sponsored by Mountain Dew.

HO-HO-HO MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Merry Christmas fellow RVers, campers, wanna-be’s, snowbirds and Winter Texans, winter campers, birders, photographers, hikers, and everyone who loves the great out-of-doors…and all readers!

Thanks to the madness of 2021, Thanksgiving came and went with a whimper this year. It’s a bummer, for sure, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t still take part in outdoor activities.

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It was said that 2020 was not a typical year. No surprise there! RVers knew so firsthand. Canadians had to cancel their annual U.S. migrations, thwarted by border closures. Folks who normally spend t-shirt time with friends at RV resorts and rallies in the South had to reschedule thanks to cancellations and other safety measures.

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With wide-scale vaccinations, we looked forward to a brighter, more social 2021. But little has changed in the past 22 months. The volatile, uncertain, and complex times continue with no sign of abatement. The border finally opened in November but with ever-changing conditions and requirements.

Related Article: Christmas Music Inspires and Brings Cheer during the Pandemic

RVing continues to be a safe means of travel where self-contained environments ensure security and flexibility.

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The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of 2020, followed by the subsequent quarantines and travel restrictions, has made many Americans more reluctant to hop on a crowded airplane for a cross-country flight. This health-related hesitancy is likely to remain for some time to come. RV travel allows vacationers to control every aspect of their environment at every step of the journey.

Social distancing is a cinch with RV travel. With thousands of RV parks, campground sites to choose from, you can easily select the level of social interaction you are comfortable with on any given day.

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But despite the 2020s and 2021’s impact on traveling, socializing, dining, and more, we still can make the best of the situation. Folks whose RVs are nestled all snug can embrace the world outside their door and view the environment they choose to call home. Inside our RVs, we can start a new hobby, catch up on our reading, or reconnect with other household members. And plan a future road trip!

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As usual, my regular postings will continue daily throughout this holiday season and into the New Year.

Related Article: Christmas Gift Ideas 2021

May you all have a heartfelt and happy Christmas!

May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through!

Forget sugar plums.

When you drift off to sleep tonight,

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I’ll be dreaming of fabulous RV destinations I’d love to visit, Acadia, Mount Rainier, Yosemite, and Yellowstone national parks.

Sweet dreams and happy holidays!

Snowbird Christmas

Cranky as an RV space heater,

I groan and grumble in the pre-dawn chill,

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Wait for the coffee pot to finish playing

Reveille to my numb mind.

Shuffling around the RV Park,

Snowbirds and Winter Texans make mischief,

Cackling like contented chickens under the hot Texas sun.

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A grateful respite from grueling gray cold fronts of International Falls, Winnipeg, and Green Bay

Amid chants of Go Packers Go!

A time of celebration and decorations

Christmas lights, ornaments, nativity scenes, Wal-Mart Santas, and reindeer.

A plastic Jesus or two adorn motorhomes, fifth-wheel trailers, and old converted buses.

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Christmas Eve, wrinkled faces gather in the clubhouse by the artificial tree

Reminiscing of Christmases past during simpler times

Speaking of children in childish voices.

Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings to all!

Related Article: Fruitcake: National Joke or Tasty Christmas Tradition

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Whatever seasonal celebrations you take part in—and for the unexpected downtime you may have—we wish you joy and happiness. We’ll be right alongside you in January as we usher in a brand-new year!

Sing it with us: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

Worth Pondering…

May the joy of today, bring forth happiness for tomorrow—and may the cold Alberta air stay up north!

When You Are in Need of a Christmas Miracle

Do you need a Christmas miracle this year?

Most everyone has seen or knows the story portrayed by Charles Dickens in his 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. Dickens describes Scrooge as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint…secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”

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Despite having considerable personal wealth, he underpays his clerk Bob Cratchit and hounds his debtors relentlessly while living cheaply and joylessly in the chambers of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. Most of all, he detests Christmas which he associates with reckless spending.

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When two men approach him on Christmas Eve for a donation to charity, he sneers that the poor should avail themselves of the treadmill or the workhouses or else die to reduce the surplus population. He also refuses his nephew Fred’s invitation to Christmas dinner and denounces him as a fool for celebrating Christmas.

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That night, Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost who is condemned to walk the world forever bound in chains as punishment for his greed and inhumanity in life. Marley tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits hoping that he will mend his ways; if he does not, Marley warns, Scrooge will wear even heavier chains than his in the afterlife.

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The tale of his redemption by three spirits―the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come―has become known as the embodiment of the Christmas spirit.

Related: The Story of the Poinsettia

Christmas is all about miracles. The story of Scrooge is one of the many miracles at this time of year.

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In Search of a Miracle 

Anna Karenina is a brilliant study of humanity. It’s also the story of a miracle.

Many writers consider Anna Karenina the greatest work of literature ever. Aside from being a novel about betrayal, faith, family, and marriage, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is also a story about one man’s search for meaning in a complicated world. 

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Konstantin Levin, the story’s second main character, spends a large portion of the novel trying to figure out how his wife Kitty could believe in a higher power he’s never seen any signs of. 

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One day, he is listening to a peasant talk about two landowners—a stingy one and a generous one—and asked the peasant, Fyodor, how it could be that these two men are so different from each other. Fyodor replied that the generous landowner “lives for his soul” and “does not forget God,” leading Levin to realize the miracle that he’s been looking for this whole time—goodness. 

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Levin reasons that it’s rational for a person to live for his needs like food and shelter but not for goodness. Yet, humanity knows about this concept called “goodness” and many people even give up their personal interests to be good. So, he reasons, where could this idea have come from if it wasn’t bestowed upon humanity by some higher force? 

Related: O Christmas Tree, Don’t Fall Off my SUV

Levin, the educated noble, likely never expected that an offhand comment by a simple peasant would be what gave him the epiphany he’d been hoping for. 

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Perhaps that’s also part of the miracle that Tolstoy points out—just like every person who still strives for goodness against the odds. Each righteous person is a manifestation of the goodness gifted to humanity and a testament to the strength of this miraculous gift. And perhaps, just like the generous landowner in Fyodor’s story, they can also awaken others to the miracle of goodness in unexpected and powerful ways during the Christmas season. 

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The Miracle of Christmas

For many of us, Christmas is one of the best times of the year. But for others, it can be one of the hardest. The holiday season has a way of bringing up emotions in a way that nothing else can. We can feel joy, love, peace, and contentment or we can feel great sadness, loneliness, stress, and unrest. The term Christmas miracle is often used this time of year. It’s a phrase used to define a miraculous event that is so amazingly spectacular it could have only happened at Christmas.

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There is something about this holiday that brings out mainly the best in people. There seem to be more kindnesses extended, more courtesy expressed and many people find this time a good one to generously give so that those less fortunate also can experience the joy of the season.

Christmas reminds me again of the story of God’s love made incarnate in the miracle of a baby in a faraway spot in the Holy Land called Bethlehem.

Related: Christmas Gift Ideas 2021

It’s a story of hope for all who embrace its majesty and miracle.

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And, of course, the past 22 months have taught us all the need for the miracle of that presence which brings out the best in all of us.

Covered by masks, separated by 6 feet, and afraid to make contact, many have suffered from a feeling of disconnectedness. Many have experienced depression, anxiety, and sometimes anger comes out because of this scourge.

Yet, the miracle is, I believe, still around us.

Related: Christmas Gift Ideas 2019

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For many people, the holidays are a joyous time of year. Adults are eager to take off a few days to celebrate the Christmas Holiday and the New Year. Children are adding presents to their lists and anxiously watching the night sky for signs of Santa.

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These are the hopeful days that the world should cling to. These are the times we need to remember when bad news clouds our memory. These are the moments that we can’t let pass us by.

Worth Pondering…

I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.

—Charles Dickens

Christmas Music Inspires and Brings Cheer during the Pandemic

Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with the best Christmas songs of all time

Christmas delivers more traditions, festivities, and entertainment than all other holidays combined.

During the Christmas season, we sing traditional carols and hymns. In churches and homes, many set up nativity scenes, a practice created in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi.

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We also participate in secular holiday traditions. Originally modeled on a fourth-century bishop, St. Nicholas of Myra, Santa Claus has long been an icon of the Christmas season. We set up and decorate spruce and fir trees in our living rooms, attach stockings to the mantle, send out Christmas cards, buy sleigh loads of presents, and tell the little ones about Santa’s elves and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The world of arts and entertainment exuberantly joins these festivities. We read books such as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and share poems with our children like Clement Moore’s The Night Before Christmas or Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Hollywood has pumped out scores of Christmas movies ranging from classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” to comedies, religious stories, and Hallmark romances.

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Meanwhile, families practice their own holiday customs. That newly wedded couple must decide whether they’re going to open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Some families watch “A Christmas Story,” while others stick to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Some repeat the Thanksgiving menu of turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes for their holiday meal while others enjoy roast beef, goose, or ethnic foods.

Another Christmas tradition: The Story of the Poinsettia

And then, of course, there is the music.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Songs, songs, and more songs

It’s not really Christmas until the gang from Pentatonix releases new material and this year they’ve stretched the definition of Christmas material.

The group offers classics like “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” and also tackle songs not often caroled like Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and Joni Mitchell’s “River.” And then they give “I Saw Three Ships” and “Frosty the Snowman” a rhythmic beat.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are so many Christmas songs and so many different artists who have recorded them that certain radio stations fill their December air time with this fare without strain or repetition. Load copies of all these recordings into Santa’s sleigh and even that bearded wonder and his 12 reindeer might have trouble making lift-off.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of these compositions are more than 1,000 years old while others have popped up in just the past decade. Some celebrate the coming of a savior like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, O Holy Night”, and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Others center our attention on the symbols of the season like “O Christmas Tree” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.” Some take a turn toward romance, as in “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “Christmas Every Day.” There are even silly Christmas songs: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And you don’t need to be Irish to enjoy “Christmas in Killarney”:

  • The holly green, the ivy green/The prettiest picture you’ve ever seen/Is Christmas in Killarney/With all of the folks at home/It’s nice you know, to kiss your beau/while cuddling under the mistletoe/And Santa Claus, you know of course/Is one of the boys from home
  • The door is always open/The neighbors pay a call/And Father John, before he’s gone/Will bless the house and all/Our Hearts are light, our spirits bright/We’ll celebrate our joy tonight/It’s Christmas in Killarney/With all of the folks at home
Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Songs and carols and how they came to be

Behind many of these songs are intriguing stories of their creation and their meaning. Here are just a few of these histories.

Another Christmas tradition: Pecan Pralines a Sweet Tradition

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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” has its roots in the monasteries of the ninth century. That early version was in Latin, of course, and is just as beautiful as the English we sing today. Originally, monks or nuns chanted verses and psalms from the Old Testament anticipating the arrival of a savior. Discipleship Ministries of the Methodist Church offers this interesting observation on the original arrangement. Each of the antiphons (a short chant in Christian ritual, sung as a refrain) began with the words below:

  • O Sapentia (Wisdom)
  • O Adonai (Hebrew word for God)
  • O Radix Jesse (stem or root of Jesse)
  • O Clavis David (key of David)
  • O Oriens (dayspring)
  • O Rex genitium (King of the Gentiles)
  • O Emmanuel
Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the seventh antiphon—O Emmanuel—the first letter of these words read in opposite order gave listeners an acrostic “Ero Cras,” which means “I will be present tomorrow.”

Another song from the Middle Ages, “In Dulci Jubilo,” we now know as “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.” German folklore holds that Heinrich Seuse composed this carol sometime around 1328 after he had heard angels singing it.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht

“Silent Night” has a story that is almost as beautiful as the carol itself.

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Just after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, a young Austrian priest, Joseph Mohr, took a walk on a winter’s evening and was struck by the peace and beauty of the snow-covered village below him. He wrote down the words for “Silent Night,” and two years later, in need of a hymn for Christmas Eve, he paid a visit to his friend Franz Gruber, a school teacher who was also the church’s choirmaster and asked him to compose the music for his lyrics.

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That night, at Midnight Mass, Gruber and Father Mohr, playing on the guitar, gave the world one of its most beloved carols.

Eventually, “Silent Night” was translated into more than 300 languages and is today sung around the world. One fascinating historical note: During World War I’s Christmas Eve truce of 1914, soldiers from both sides of no man’s land gathered and sang the carol in English and German.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Secular Songs of the Season

The past 100 years have seen an explosion of non-religious holiday songs. Of these, “White Christmas” remains one of the most popular, and again the music comes with a special story.

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The Russian-born Irving Berlin who gave us such hits as “God Bless America” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” also wrote “White Christmas.” Though the Jewish composer didn’t celebrate this holiday, some have speculated he may have written the song in memory of his 3-week-old son who died in 1928 on Christmas Day. For years afterward, Berlin and his wife annually visited their son’s grave on that day. Certainly, the opening lines and the slow, rather melancholy tune might point to such a loss:

  • I’m dreaming of a white Christmas/Just like the ones I used to know/Where the treetops glisten and children listen/ To hear sleigh bells in the snow
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In 1941, Bing Crosby first brought the newly published “White Christmas” to the airwaves just days after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. During the war, whenever Crosby appeared overseas to entertain the troops, the soldiers, again and again, requested this song.

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“I hesitated about doing it because invariably it caused such a nostalgic yearning among the men, that it made them sad,” Crosby said in an interview. “Heaven knows, I didn’t come that far to make them sad. For this reason, several times I tried to cut it out of the show, but these guys just hollered for it.”

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Those men wanted that reminder of home and what they were fighting for.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cultural Bonds

If we explore the origins and histories of such songs and carols, we find that many of them come with these special stories. In “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” for example, some believe that the gifts mentioned in the song, from a partridge in a pear tree to 12 drummers drumming, refer to certain symbols of the Catholic faith while others contend this strange array of presents derives from a child’s memory game.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While learning these stories can be fun and instructive, it’s the music we know and love. It’s a small bit of that glue that binds us together as a people. We would be hard-pressed to find a child, or an adult for that matter, who had never heard of Rudolph or The Grinch. Whatever our religious beliefs, we’re familiar with “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.” We may not know the words, but we can hum along with songs like “Little Drummer Boy” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

Another Christmas tradition: O Christmas Tree, Don’t Fall Off my SUV

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved MERA

How mainstream is your taste in Christmas music?

Compare your faves to the most-streamed Christmas songs on Spotify this holiday season:

  • “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey (written and recorded in 1994)
  • “Last Christmas” by Wham! (another 1994 recording)
  • “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (written and recorded in 1951)
  • “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms (recorded in 1957)
  • “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee (recorded in 1958)
Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To my readers, I’ll conclude by way of one more song title: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!”

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!

―Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Story of the Poinsettia

Today (December 12th) is National Poinsettia Day in honor the late Joel Roberts Poinsett who was largely responsible for the poinsettia’s association with Christmas

There are certain plants that play important and often mysterious roles in holiday traditions and celebrations all over the world. From the Egyptians who decorated trees during the winter solstice to the Pagans and Druids who used mistletoe in their winter customs, stories abound of plants that have become infused into the mythologies of cultures and regions.

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The long, strange tale of the Poinsettia

The poinsettia’s story is just as unique as the rest. Despite this celebrated plant’s prominence during the holiday season, its story remains largely unknown—until now.

The story of the poinsettia is one that spans hundreds of years and contains countless twists and turns as it wound its way into our holiday traditions. Although it doesn’t pre-date Christianity like its Christmas counterparts, the holiday season wouldn’t be the same without the reds and greens of the poinsettia.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cuetlaxochitl: the origin of the Poinsettia

To begin, we go back to 14th century Mexico. The plant had a long history of medicinal use. It was said that its milky white sap, called latex, could be used to reduce fever symptoms. The plant was so highly prized in an Aztec culture that “Cuetlaxochitl,” as the plant was known, was also used to create red and purple dyes for clothing and textiles.

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These wild Mexican plants were 12 to 15 feet tall with only 1 or 2 stems. The red floral bracts were quite narrow and droopy as compared with those of modern poinsettias and they had large open centers.

Another Christmas tradition: Fruitcake: National Joke or Tasty Christmas Tradition

It is said that Montezuma, the last of the Aztec emperors, was so captivated by the plant that he would have caravans of poinsettias shipped to the capital city of Teotihuacan because the plants could not grow at the high altitude.

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However, it wasn’t until the 17th century that Cuetlaxochitl, now an established decorative plant in Mexican tradition, began its journey into Christmas traditions.

This part of the journey began in the small town of Taxco de Alarcon, Mexico where Franciscan monks began using the shrub in their Nativity processions. Coincidentally, it is also around this time that the Mexican legend of Pepita and the “Flowers of the Holy Night” began, forever tying the red and green shrub to Christmas folklore.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pepita and the Poinsettia

According to legend, a young girl named Pepita was traveling to her village to visit the Nativity scene at the chapel. Since Pepita did not have enough money to buy a present to give the baby Jesus at the services, she gathered a bundle of roadside weeds and formed a bouquet.

Upon entering the chapel and presenting her bouquet to the Nativity Jesus, the bouquet of roadside weeds miraculously turned into a bouquet of beautiful red flowers that the locals knew as Cuetlaxochitl.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The namesake of the Poinsettia

During this time, the poinsettia’s association with Christmas was almost entirely confined to small Mexican towns and their local folklore. It remained relatively obscure for almost two hundred years before a man by the name of Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779–1851) introduced it to the United States. This introduction forever changed the way we decorate for the holidays.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joel Roberts Poinsett was a man of many talents. He was not only the first person to introduce poinsettia to the United States, but he was the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and was also a skilled and passionate botanist who co-founded the institution that we now call the Smithsonian Institute.

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In the winter of 1828, Poinsett took a diplomatic trip to Mexico on behalf of President John Quincy Adams. He visited the Taxco area where he wandered the beautiful countryside and became enchanted by the brilliant red leaves of an unfamiliar plant. Poinsett kept a greenhouse on his property in South Carolina and began shipping the blooms back to his home. There, he studied and carefully cultivated the plants.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It wasn’t long before he began sharing the plants among his friends and colleagues around Christmas time. This was when the upper leaves of the shrub would turn red. The reputation of the enchanting Christmas plants spread and soon a Pennsylvania nurseryman by the name of Robert Buist began to cultivate poinsettias. Buist would be the first to sell the plant to the public under its botanical name of Euphorbia Pulcherrima. He also played a large role in helping to establish the plant’s Christmas reputation.

It wasn’t until about 1836 that the plant formally attained its popular name of “Poinsettia” after the man who first brought the plant to the U. S. and ignited a holiday tradition that continues to this day.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A national phenomenon

In the early 1900s, poinsettia began to gain popularity. Paul Ecke Sr. developed the first poinsettia plants that could be grown indoors. He began selling them at roadside stands in Hollywood, California. In 1923, he founded the Ecke Ranch that today provides nearly 80 percent of the plants that are bought and sold in the country.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the poinsettia is the most popular plant sold during the holidays and the best-selling potted plant in the U. S. Within a six-week period leading up to Christmas, there are over 70 million poinsettias sold and nearly $250 million in poinsettia sales accounted for.

In July of 2002, the United States Congress named December 12th National Poinsettia Day. The day honors the late Joel Roberts Poinsett who played a crucial role in making the poinsettia into the holiday fixture that it is today.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Poinsettia Flower Anatomy

Poinsettias belong to the same family as Castor-Beans, the Spurge or Euphorbia Family, in which flowers are unisexual. Besides that, Poinsettia flowers differ in several important ways from the average flower features.

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In Poinsettia flowers the large, red, eye-catching things at the ends of branches are not flower petals but rather modified leaves called bracts. Because actual Poinsettia flowers are small and inconspicuous, the red bracts take over the job of attracting pollinators.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The greenish, cuplike thing labeled “cyathium” is a structure unique to the Poinsettia’s genus Euphorbia. In each cyathium usually, there are several male flowers but only one female, and that female is attached to the cyathium’s center. However, the cyathium is too small to accommodate the males and the much larger female flower, so the female flower does something extraordinary: She sits atop a stemlike pedicel which grows so long that it bears the female ovary completely outside the cyathiume. There the female flower is labeled “pistillate flower” because she consists of nothing but the pistil (stigma, style, and ovary).

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Selecting a Poinsettia

Plant breeders have produced cultivars with many other colors besides the traditional red bracts or modified leaves. There are over 100 varieties of Poinsettias available. Though once only available in red, Poinsettias are now available in pink, white, yellow, peach, purple, salmon, marbled, and speckled. They have names like Premium Picasso, Monet Twilight, Shimmer, and Surprise.

Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider the following tips to ensure long-lasting beauty:

  • Look for plants with fully mature, thoroughly colored bracts
  • Select plants with an abundance of dark, rich green foliage all the way down the stem; the leaves and bracts should not be drooping
  • Look for plants that are balanced, full, and attractive from all sides
  • Select durable plants with stiff stems, good bract and leaf retention, and no signs of wilting, breaking, or drooping
  • Choose plants with the yellow flowers in the center that are not quite open
Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Poinsettia care

To help your poinsettia thrive in your home during the holiday season, follow these tips:

  • Light: Set your poinsettia in a bright location so that it receives at least 6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day. Putting it in direct sunlight may fade the color of the bracts. If the direct sun cannot be avoided, filter the sunlight with a light shade or sheer curtain.
  • Temperature: Excess heat will cause the leaves to yellow and fall off and the flower bracts to fade early. The daytime temperature should not exceed 70 °F. Do not put your poinsettia near drafts, excessive heat, or dry air from ventilating ducts. Chilling injury is also a problem and can cause premature leaf drop if the temperature drops below 50 °F.
  • Water & Fertilizer: Poinsettias require moderately moist soil. Water them thoroughly when the soil surface feels dry to the touch. Never let the potting mixture completely dry out and never let the plant sit in standing water. When watering, always take the plant out of its decorative pot cover. Water until water seeps out of the drainage hole and the soil is completely saturated.
Poinsettia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities in the world.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson