Taxco de Alarcon, Mexico
Many plants have come to be identified with the Christmas season. Holly, ivy, and of course mistletoe all evolved from the pagan traditions of Northern Europe to earn a beloved place in the holidays. But it was Southern Mexico that yielded the most colorful and popular Christmas plant of all: the spectacular Poinsettia. Discovered by Spanish missionaries soon after their arrival in the New World, the brilliant red plant has since become a fixture in many churches and homes during the holiday season.
According to tradition, poinsettias made their Christmas debut sometime in the 16th century in the town of Taxco in Southern Mexico. Two impoverished young children named Maria and Pablo picked some weeds as a gift to present to the local church on Christmas Eve. The weeds miraculously transformed into beautiful red flowers, which were later called Flowers of the Holy Night. In the years that followed, Franciscan priests began to use the flowers in their Nativity processions.
Some time around 1828 the American ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, for whom the flowers were later named, brought some of the plants back to the United States. As they bloomed well at Christmastime, and were particularly festive looking, poinsettias soon caught on as a holiday decoration. Although poinsettias are now produced and sold around the world, Taxco remains their traditional homeland, and it is especially amazing to see endless fields of poinsettias in bloom there.
Taxco, about forty miles south of Mexico City, is one of the oldest cities in Mexico. The Church of the Ex-Monastery of San Bernardino de Siena dates from the late 1500s, and is believed to be one of the very first churches ever to use poinsettias in their Christmas festivities. As of this writing no information was available for visiting the church or places where poinsettias are cultivated in the Taxco region. Web: www.visitmexico.com/en/taxco(official website of Taxco)
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