The delivery man rang the bell and I found him shivering outside the front door of our suburban Chicago townhome earlier this week. It was subzero and early evening as he placed the very large and beautifully wrapped bundle in our entryway and disappeared into the night. Like children on Christmas morning our eyes lit up at the sight, we gentle peeled away the cellophane to reveal the most unique Christmas floral plant we have ever been gifted. She is pictured here and came prepared for her close up! The note of course was opened and read through tear filled eyes. Family down in Texas thought to wish us a Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year. Caring for all living things today requires but one google search! We are blessed to welcome this symbol of Christian faith into our home and will always remember this very special year and its many gifts from Texas. The Christmas Cactus, such a fitting present as it is not unusual for these beauties to survive and be passed down from generation to generation. Since she is a tropical plant, a native to Brazil we will loving tend to all of her needs. The tropical daily mistings have begun….she seems pleased to be in our home and living like the princess she is!
1. The Christmas Cactus
LEGEND has it the Christmas Cactus dates back many years to the land now known as Bolivia and a Jesuit missionary, Father Jose, who labored endlessly to convert the natives there. He had come across the Andes Mountains from the city of Lim nearly a year before. But he felt the people of this village on the edge of the great jungle were still suspicious. He had cared for the sick and shown the natives how to improve their simple dwellings, which leaked dismally in the rainy season. Most important, he had attempted to teach them the story of the Bible, especially the life of Jesus, though much seemed to be beyond their comprehension. He had told them about the beautifully decorated altars in cities during holidays, yet here it was Christmas Eve and he was on his knees alone in front of his rudimentary altar. Then he heard voices singing a familiar hymn he had taught his flock. He turned to see a procession of the village children carrying armfuls of blooming green branches (which we now know as the Christmas Cactus) that they had gathered in the jungle for the Christ Child. Father Jose joyfully gave thanks for this hopeful budding of Christianity. Today the Christmas cactus still blooms each winter with its message of faith and hope.
There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettias and Christmas come together, it goes like this: There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.’Pepita’, he said “I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy.”Pepita didn’t know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.
In Victorian times, Amaryllis came to symbolize strength and determination, due to its tall height and sturdiness. Over the last several years, Amaryllis have become increasingly popular Christmas plants, due to their willingness to bloom indoors in winter and their bright, colorful flowers. Today, they’re a fashionable alternative to poinsettias or Christmas cactus! In many American households, Amaryllis are a new holiday staple.
4, 5 and 6 – The Greenery : Holly – Ivy – Mistletoe
Holly, ivy and mistletoe, are the winter greens and the bringing of green vegetation into the home is closely linked to the birth of Christ. Holly around the door is thought to protect the home, Mistletoe and Ivy are most often associated with love, romance and courtship and are each edible plants.
Do you have a favorite?