the winter happy plant


My mother grew up in a large German Catholic family on a prosperous dairy farm in Wisconsin. Tradition was important, so important that even into her children's generation the excitement of St. Nicholas Eve, December 5th, managed to give Christmas Eve some pretty good competition.

Having later lived in a very elegant style for a short time in Los Angeles during the late 20's, and being familiar with the history of the plant's marketing, she always told us that she didn't think Poinsettias should have anything to do with Christmas. While growing up I absolutely loved the holiday, but our house always remained Poinsettia-free, just as it stood impervious to the much-advertised charms of shiny aluminum or pastel plastic trees during the peak of their popularity.

Today I've shed absolutely any attachment to December 24th (or 25th), but my mother's attitude toward Christmas has preserved this beautiful weed for my enjoyment. I've abandoned the religion as well as the holiday, but I still love occasion and I'm crazy about flowers. The bright red version is still a little too much identified with the celebration of a virgin birth or a visit from Santa Claus, but I really love every other color of the blooms most people think of as the Christmas plant.

This one sits on our dining room table tonight.


saw your address in art in america, so i am checking out your site. very cool. check out my little new site if you get the chance:


Wishing you both a great Festivus !

Pointsettia come from Mexico. They only recently became associated with Christmas because they are red and they bloom in winter. The same goes with "christmas cactus" which growers have since been blooming in early spring and selling as "easter cactus." Other Christmas greens like holly and pine were originally associated with the winter solstice. The fact that these plants stayed green throughout the coldest and darkest days of winter symbolized the enduring light that remained through the darkness of the longest night of the year. I totally respect your rejection of virgin births or Santa Claus (he was originally pagan too). However considering everything that's been happening in the world recently, the idea of light and life surviving through the darkest times waiting till they emerge again is a metaphor we can all embrace.
Jon W

We avoid pointsettia too, but Christmas cactus abound on our patio.

Jon W.'s point about what stays green being the honored plants this time of year shows that Jesus and virgin births didn't take place in California. As a native midwesterner, I'm always astonished when the hills start turning green in December. Once the fall rains come, the wild grasses sprout, so we've got greenery all over the place right now.

And, just for old times' sake, "Merry Christmas", James.

About this Entry

Published on December 23, 2004 12:45 AM.

previous entry: I guess this explains a lot

next entry: Chie Fukao