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Legend of the Poinsettia – A Mexican Folktale

A Mexican Folktale

The Poinsettia plant had a long history of medicinal use. before it was used decoratively. It was said that its milky white sap, called latex, could be used to reduce fever symptoms. It wasn’t until the 17th century that the beautiful flower became associated with Christmas celebrations.

Adapted from the children’s international cookbook, The Cultured Chef by Nicholas Beatty. Read by Pamela Atherton

Many years ago, a young girl lived with her parents in a small village located in the heart of Mexico. The girl was very hardworking; known for always helping her family and community with anything that needed to be done.

One year, just before the annual Christmas celebration, the local priest asked the young girl’s mother to help make a new blanket for one of the poor families in the community. “Por su puesto, of course!” the woman cheerfully offered.

Without wasting time, the girl and her mother set about making the blanket. For the first several days the blanket began to take shape, with a beautiful floral pattern emerging from the woven fabric. But soon the mother became very ill and she was unable to continue weaving the blanket.

The young girl did her best to continue weaving the blanket, but the harder she tried, the more mistakes she made. Soon the blanket was so uneven and misshapen, she was forced to stop weaving altogether. “Ayudame, por favor, help me please!” she said. The girl became very sad she was unable to help the family in need. 

On the day when the community gathered to bestow gifts to the poor families, the young girl hid near the edge of the village. “You should be in the square with the others,” an old woman said  to the girl. Tearfully, the girl explained her mother’s illness, and her inability to complete the blanket. The woman assured the girl that a family in need would appreciate any gift she had to give, especially if it came from her heart.

The girl didn’t have much time to spare. She ran home, grabbed the folded blanket and ran to the square. 

The people in the square laughed as the girl unfolded her blanket in front of the family in need. “Someone needs lessons in weaving,” the townspeople joked. But the girl ignored them, and watched as the family wrapped the blanket around their shoulders. Suddenly, the crowd was silenced as they began to watch a miracle unfold. The jagged floral pattern in the blanket came to life, with brightly colored poinsettias aligning themselves in perfect rows of brilliant shapes and colors. But the miracle didn’t stop there! The gorgeous star-shaped crimson flowers soon began blooming everywhere! The tall stalks of grass on the edge of the square soon burst forth in bloom. Stems of beautiful poinsettias were displayed in the women’s hair, in garlands stretched high above the square, and scattered in the pathways throughout the village.

Truly, the young girl’s gift meant so much to the poor family that it bloomed throughout the entire village, and has become a symbol of Christmas to this day.