Known as la Flor de Nochebuena in Mexico, where the poinsettia is native, the Poinsettia’s Spanish name translates to the Christmas Eve Flower, and has long been associated with Christmas—ever since the 16th century. Legend tells the story of a little girl who was too poor to afford a gift to celebrate Jesus’s birthday. Inspired by an angel, she gathers weeds from the roadside as her gift. When she lays them on the altar on Christmas Eve, they miraculously sprout their brilliant red bracts, transforming into the beautiful Flores de Nochebuena. And they have been a part of Christmas celebrations ever since.
The English name for the flowers comes from the first US Minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the plant into the United States in 1825. But in Puerto Rico, Spain, and other Latin American countries, the flower’s name is almost the opposite of the Mexican name: la Flor de Pascua, or Easter Flower.