What do rosemary, holly and poinsettia have in common?
All three plants are associated with Jesus.
Legend is that Mary laid her infant Jesus on rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) branches in the manger. She also placed His freshly washed clothing on a rosemary bush to dry. In gratitude, God blessed it with blue blossoms, the color of Mary’s robe.
A symbol of remembrance, rosemary never grows taller or wider than the baby Jesus was long.
When Mary and Joseph fled King Herod’s soldiers, Mary hid the infant Jesus under a leafless holly bush. Green leaves sprouted to conceal Him, and thorns offered protection. The Christ Child blessed the holly and ordained it should remain evergreen (Ilex aquifolium-English).
A holly wreath (from the old English word writha meaning a ring) symbolizes eternal life and the cycle of nature because a circle has no beginning or end. The wreath also symbolizes the crown of thorns Jesus wore before He was crucified. The red berries represent His blood.
The green leaves of the holly tree (Ilex opaca -American) represent hope and immortality. Many arguments were settled under holly trees, also known for peace and joy.
Two legends are associated with the poinsettia, both involving poor Mexican children. One story is that on their way to church Christmas Eve, Pepita and Pedro gathered weeds as a gift to lay at the altar. The weeds suddenly turned into beautiful red flowers known as Flores de Noche Buena or Flowers of the Holy Night and have bloomed during Christmas ever since.
Another story is that when the empty-handed youngsters arose from prayer at the altar, red poinsettias sprang up where they knelt. They picked the blooms and left them as their gifts.
Joel Robert Poinsett, first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, and a botanist from South Carolina, discovered the plant growing in Taxco, Mexico in 1825 and sent it home for proliferation. Today, poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are available in burgundy, pink, salmon, white, swirled and speckled in addition to red, a symbol of purity.