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Christmas Traditions: Have Yourself a Mexicali Christmas! - The Legend of the Poinsettia

Updated on December 20, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

In many ways, music saved my life, and I have the most famous director of the USMC bands to thank for it!

Pointsettia. | Source

Poinsettia Traditions

The beautiful and unique poinsettia plant is a native plant of Mexico, including Mexicali in Baja California. It has been imported to the United States and other countries, resulting in a thriving business for many years in Encinitas, California, across the border from Baja.

The flower's star-like flowers appear everywhere in December in white, pink, and red blooms of seasonal decor.

There is a legend of magic surrounding the fact that this "star flower" plant was first used as a Christmas decoration in the 16th or 17th century, because its "star" also looked like the cross of the Crucifixion. For long years, the poinsettia was successfully used as medicine among native peoples in Mexico. Now, it offers additional miracles.

We know that Franciscan monks from Spain and their community in seventeenth-century Mexico decided to add the red blooms of the poinsettia to the Catholic Christmas celebrations.


The Miracle of the Poinsettia

"Los Posadas" (The Shelter)

"The Christmas Star"

Christmas Lights in Chihuahua

Pablo and the Poinsettia

A tiny Mexican boy called Pablo walked to church in his hometown in order to see the annual Nativity Scene. He was very excited by this treat. It had been such a large part of the Mexican tradition of Christmas!

Like the little drummer boy of the popular song in which he went to the First Nativity to bring his gift of music to the baby, the tiny Mexican boy suddenly had a thought --

As he was walking in anticipation to the church, Pablo looked at his empty hands and realized that he had no gift to give the Baby Jesus in the Nativity. What would he do for the Christ Child to show his appreciation for His Gift to the world? He must find something worthy.

Well, Pablo looked down and spied some greenery growing by the side of the road, as well we all might do when we walk a familiar route. The greens were very decorative in leaf and of a nearly evergreen type, green all year long and could represent everlasting life as the Gift. They would make a good decoration and offering at the Nativity,

Pablo carefully gathered several of the lovely green branches of large leaves he had found and happily arrived at the Nativity. Oh, but the other children laughed and made fun of poor Pablo! They said his greens were worthless and ugly. This was not very nice, especially in front of Baby Jesus at Christmas.


Undaunted, Pablo lay his green branches carefully beside the Manager, despite the rude remarks of the other children. The greens were indeed lovely plants there, just the way they were. And what do you think happened next? A large and awesome red star burst forth in bloom immediately from the green branches. Everyone there was hushed in awe.

The living red star showed the love Pablo felt for the Christ Child as well as Christ's Gift to the whole world - His life and Blood. The red flower came forth by Pablo's faith. A Star in the sky had led the Wise Men to the First Nativity, and Pablo's star matched it in it's brilliance, point for point. It now leads others every year. This is why we use the simple poinsettia at Christmas today.

Nochebuena is a Mexican name for the poinsettia, and it means literally "the good night of Christmas Eve."

Another name for it is La Flor de la Nochebuena or the Flower of the Holy Night.

Add the magic of the following recipes to your Christmas Holidays this year and on Christmas Eve, wait in expectancy for legends to come true - blooming red stars, tiny boys drumming, and animals talking around the manger.

Paper poinsettias, traditional Christmas markets of Mexico and the Philippines.
Paper poinsettias, traditional Christmas markets of Mexico and the Philippines. | Source

Mexican Traditions

Christmas Eve Traditions

There are many traditions around the Christmas Holiday in Mexico, spanning the beginnign of December through to January 6, when children open gifts. Of them all, Christmas Eve is a magic and holy night.

After attending church as midnight on Christmas Eve, family and friends return home for a feast. No friend is permitted to be alone on Christmas Eve. Hospitality is everywhere.

At this post- midnight feast, traditional courses often include

  • Christmas Eve Salad
  • Tamales - Tamales are very much traditional in Northern Mexico, including Mexicali
  • Chicken Vinaigrette
  • Mexican Rice
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate - with or with hot spices added
  • Run Eggnog Mousse
  • Cafe de Olla

Two recipes are shared below.

Renaissance Spanish Christmas Carol

Christmas Eve Salad

Serves 6-8

  • 2 Bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 4 Beets, washed, cooked, skinned, and sliced; or use canned
  • 2 Limes for juice and peel
  • 6 leaves of shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 Red apple, sliced and sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent browning
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp of milk
  • 1 Pineapple, peeled and sliced (or use a can of rings)
  • 1/4 Pound jicama, sliced
  • 1 Large orange, peeled & thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 Cup peanuts, chopped

The Dressing:

  • Grate 2 Tbsp lime zest and squeeze 1/4 cup juice into a l bowl.
  • Mix with mayonnaise, sugar and milk.
  • Place bowl of dressing onto one side of a large serving platter.

The Platter:

  • Line the platter with shredded lettuce.
  • In semicircles around the platter beginning at the outside edge away from the dressing, arrange pineapple rings (cut in half first), Apples, oranges, bananas, beets, and jicama.
  • Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and peanuts over the fruit and serve.

Santa La Noche

Pork Tamales

Serves 6


  • 1 Pound shredded lean pork
  • 6 Cups corn masa flour
  • 6 Cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 Cup corn oil
  • 2 Jars tomatillo sauce
  • 1 White onion, chopped fine
  • 1 Package corn husks (or use foil if you cannot find husks)
  • 3 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp pepper


  • Boil Corn husks in water until tender and drain.
  • Blend together in a bowl the masa, oil, broth, salt, and baking powder.
  • Marinate pork in tomatillo sauce for at lest 30 minutes.
  • Evenly spread cron masa mix over each of the boiled corn husks.
  • Scoop one tablespoon marinated pork on each tamale.
  • Fold tamales up and ends over, place seam side down in a streamer and steam for 45 minutes and serve.

Jose Feliciano

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS


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