The types and significance of flowers used during Christmas : Many people decorate their homes during Christmas with certain types of flowers, in addition to other adornments. These include :
The poinsettia is a kind of plant, also known by its scientific name of 'Euphorbia pulcherrima' which blooms around Christmas time.
According to a Mexican legend, the poinsettia plant became synonymous with Christmas when a poor Mexican girl presented a bouquet of weeds to baby Jesus during Christmas eve as she could not present a better gift. As soon as she placed the weeds under the Nativity scene, they miraculously turned into bright red flowers, which soon began to be called 'Flores de Noche Buena' or 'Flowers of the Holy night'.
Although, they come in different shades such as red, pink and white, the red ones are mainly used for Christmas (the primary color associated with the festival) as it signifies Christ's blood.
Moreover, since the leaves of the poinsettia plant are arranged in a star-like shape, many consider it to signify the 'Star of Bethlehem', which as the scriptures tell us, was an unusual star seen by the Wise Men that ultimately lead them to the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Christmas cactus ('Schlumbergera') is so named because its growing season is around the Christmas time. It is native to south east Brazil and has flattened leaves and drooping flowers in colors of red, magenta, lavender, orange and white.
Having no historical symbolism, this cactus has come to be associated with Christmas, probably because evergreens such as pine and fir trees that are used as Christmas trees, are usually found in cold climates. Thus, in warmer places such as Africa and Australia, where these trees are not available, the Christmas cactus is usually a variant of the original Christmas tree.
Moreover, as mentioned earlier, they grow around Christmas time which makes them even more popular during the festival.
Amaryllis ('Hippeastrum') is a bulbous plant native to South Africa. Amaryllis has bell shaped flowers and come in red, salmon, pink, white and orange colors. The petals may also have different colored edges.
The red colored amaryllis is a popular Christmas flower and is probably used during Christmas time because of the beauty associated with its bright, large petals.
Rosemary ('Rosmarinus officinalis') is another popular holiday flower. It is essentially a herb, native to the Mediterranean climate. It has needle-like leaves and flowers that bloom in white, pink, purple and blue.
As the legend goes, when baby Jesus' clothes were left to dry on rosemary bushes, the herb magically produced fruit and the flowers turned blue, which would perhaps explain why it is also associated with Christmas.
Rosemary has a strong fragrance and it is believed that smelling it during Christmas brings good luck. It is commonly used in Christmas wreaths and as a potted herb that is trimmed in a conical shape, resembling a Christmas tree.
Mistletoe ('Viscum album' and 'Phoradendron flavescens') is a parasitic plant that grows on willow and apple trees. It consists of smooth oval leaves and small clusters of waxy, white berries. It can be used in Christmas wreaths or are otherwise hung from the ceiling, following the age-old tradition of kissing under the mistletoe which is speculated to be a Norse custom, as they considered it to be a sign of love and friendship.
Some also believe that hanging the mistletoe (which dates back to the ancient Druids) during Christmas brings good luck and wards off evil spirits.
Holly ('IIex') is an evergreen shrub, a commonly used Christmas decoration on wreaths and Christmas trees. It consists of green, pointed leaves with small red berries in the centre. Its use dates back to the Druids who viewed it as a symbol of everlasting life.
The Christians believe that the pointed leaves symbolise Jesus' crown of thorns while the red berries represent his blood, thus holly represents Jesus' promise of everlasting life.
Ivy ('Hedera') is a climbing evergreen plant which means that it has to cling to something for support (a wall or ground) to facilitate its growth. This has led some to believe that we need to cling to God for support. It is also said to be a sign of resurrection as it is also sometimes associated with Osiris, an Egyptian God, and Attis, a Greco-Roman God, who were both resurrected after death.