The poinsettia is native to Mexico and was cultivated by the Aztecs, who called the plant Cuetlaxochitl (“flower which wilts”). For the Aztecs, the plant’s brilliant red color symbolized purity, and they often used it medicinally to reduce fever. Contrary to popular belief, the poinsettia is not poisonous, but holly berries are.
The poinsettia, a traditional Christmas flower, originally grew in Mexico, where it is also known as the ‘Flower of the Holy Night’. Joel Poinsett first brought it to America in 1829.
Electric Christmas lights were first used in 1854.
Mistletoe (Viscum album) is from the Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, which means “little dung twig” because the plant spreads through bird droppings.
The traditional three colors of Christmas are green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.
Christmas stockings allegedly evolved from three sisters who were too poor to afford a marriage dowry and were, therefore, doomed to a life of prostitution. They were saved, however, when the wealthy Bishop Saint Nicholas of Smyrna (the precursor to Santa Claus) crept down their chimney and generously filled their stockings with gold coins.
There are two competing claims as to which president was the first to place a Christmas tree in the White House. Some scholars say President Franklin Pierce did in 1856; others say President Benjamin Harrison brought in the first tree in 1889. President Coolidge started the White House lighting ceremony in 1923.
President Teddy Roosevelt, an environmentalist, banned Christmas trees from the White House in 1912.
The world’s largest Christmas stocking measured 106 feet and 9 inches (32.56 m) long and 49 feet and 1 inch (14.97 m) wide. It weighed as much as five reindeer and held almost 1,000 presents. It was made by the Children’s Society in London on December 14, 2007.