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Unique Handmade Poinsettia Christmas Decorations
The single, most easily identifiable symbol of the Christmas season in North America, second only to the jolly man in the red and white suit, is the poinsettia. Mass displays of this flamboyant, semi-tropical bloom appears in almost every store in the country, from early November until well after Christmas.
Simply type the "poinsettia" into your favorite search engine's "images" tab, and you will be amazed at the number of results. Images abound of potted plants, watercolor paintings, Christmas cards, textiles, tree ornaments, silk flowers - almost every way to use a poinsettia as a Christmas decoration that you could possibly imagine.
Poinsettia is the King...
For a late-comer on the Christmas floral scene, the poinsettia has done very well.
We sing Christmas carols about holly and ivy, but the bright red poinsettia is the real floral king of the season - or queen, depending on your point of view.
Well, I'm sure someone will eventually write a carol about this beautiful plant, but it's very hard to find a rhyme for "poinsettia."
Christmas crafts abound that feature poinsettias. People love to paint pictures of them, make cards that feature them, and paint them on Christmas ornaments.
Origins of the Poinsettia
The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a flowering plant native to Mexico and South America.
Named in honor of the first U. S. Minister to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinset, who introduced the plant to United States in the early 1800s, the poinsettia was originally available only in its traditional bright red color.
In its native habitat, the poinsettia shrub can grow into a small tree, from 2 - 6 feet tall. In its potted version, it makes a stunning centerpiece for festive gatherings.
The poinsettia became linked with Christmas sometime in 16th century Mexico. A popular legend tells how, one Christmas Eve, a poor young girl could not afford a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday.
An angel told the child to gather some weeds by the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. The weeds burst forth with glorious crimson blooms - the first Christmas poinsettia.
From the 17th century on, poinsettias were commonly included in the Christmas celebrations led by Franciscan friars.
The star-shaped bracts symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood of Christ.
The poinsettia is a favorite patterns for hand-painting on glass and ceramic Christmas balls.
One of my favorite classes to teach in November was making hand-painted ornaments. Without fail, every year one of the most requested patterns would be the poinsettia.
There's just something about this flower in all its glorious, exuberant color that grabs the eye and imagination.
Perhaps, for us in the north, the bright colors are such a relief from the ever-present white.
Just to catch a glimpse of the delicate blossoms glowing vividly against the snow - it's a bit like lighting a candle and placing it in the window.
The candle holds a promise of warmth, much as the delicate yet sturdy poinsettia flower seems to hold out the promise of coming Spring.
I am told that poinsettias grow wild in Hawaii - perhaps that is what they are for us northern birds...a beacon of sandy beaches, warm breezes and long walks by the azure seas of the "Vacation Islands."
As well, these colorful flowers are featured in textiles, and in many lovely quilted pieces - on place-mats, table runners, wall-hangings, cushions, and table cloths.
Almost any project you can think of, from Christmas stockings to special table doilies, you will be sure to find many patterns that feature the flowering poinsettia, and in full, glorious bloom, and in almost every color under the sun.
I am particularly fond of a lovely set of place mats that I was given one year. They are quilted and appliqued, with matching napkins. The holly and ivy motif is lovely on the dark green background, but the real star of the whole ensemble are the beautiful scarlet poinsettia appliques in the center of each mat.
Whether you are looking for Christmas tree ornaments, hand-quilted decor, place-mats and napkins, or special seasonal dinner-ware, you are certain to find at least one offering that is decorated with poinsettias.
...and there are so many lovely varieties of the real plant now available in North America. The poinsettia is second only to the rose in both popularity and number of plants cultivated each year.
Available in a rainbow of colors and patterns - yes, patterns - traditional red, though still the single most popular color, is now closely followed by white, pink, an amazing multi-tonal golden, orange, and "peppermint striped" - actually a charming white-flecked bract. The bracts (or red leaves) come with plain or ruffled edges, and in shiny or rich, matte velvet tones.
The poinsettia, once the humble roadside weed, has grown into a seasonal giant - for many, an enduring symbol of the Christmas season.