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Christmas trees, poinsettias and mistletoe

According to Travel and Leisure, 2019 is the most expensive season for Christmas trees ever reported. In one Lower Manhattan New York City neighborhood, 20-foot trees sell for as much as $6,500, or $325 per foot!

While the rest of the country isn’t supplying luxury hotel lobbies or penthouses, the average price of trees is still up 23% from 2015. Meaning, decking the halls costs about $78 a tree ‘round these here parts. And while dealers claim it’s a matter of increased demand for the real-thing, it’s interesting to note that artificial tree prices are also up about $20 this year.

Both Pagans and Christians have used evergreen trees to celebrate winter festivals for thousands of years. Pagans of ancient Egypt and Rome first decorated their winter homes with green branches in anticipation of the coming spring. Christians in Germany started decorating pines, spruces, and firs as a way to exalt life, and the tradition made its way to America in the 1800s. In the dormant gray of winter, the ever-green, undying tree is a symbol of Christ, who is the gift from God for all humanity.

Considering the price and size of Christmas trees, some folks may opt to forgo a trip to the tree lot and instead pick up poinsettias from their local grocer. But how did we go from green pines to red leaves? Mexican tradition claims a little girl, Pepita, had no money but wanted to leave a present for the baby Jesus at her church’s Christmas Eve service. Stories differ on whether it was an angel or her cousin who suggested even her smallest gift would please Our Lord.

Either way, tradition claims Pepita picked weeds on her way to church and when she placed the arrangement near the altar, the weeds were transformed into the beautiful plant we know today, the “Flores de Noche Buena” or Flowers of the Holy Night.

The name “Poinsettia” comes from American diplomat Joel Roberts Poinsett, who first introduced the plant into the United States also in the 1800s. It wasn’t until the entrepreneurial Ecke family began promoting the plants by sending them to television studios for their nationally broadcasted holiday specials that the flowers became popular holiday décor.

Then there’s mistletoe. Kentucky’s most common variety of parasitic plant, Phoradendron. Celtic druids once collected the plant to hang in homes as a sign of good luck. There is also a legend about Frigga, the mythical Norse goddess of love and beauty, whose son was rescued from death with mistletoe berries. Today’s tradition suggests that whenever two meet under mistletoe, they share a kiss for luck.

I’m thankful for the tradition and beauty of Christmas. I’m celebrating God’s gift of everlasting life this Noche Buena. I’ll also be waiting for Mr. Gaynor under some mistletoe.

Neena is a Kentucky wife, mother, daughter and beekeeper who does life in Owensboro. Her first novel, The Bird and the Bees, is a Christian contemporary romance set to be released in April 2020. Visit her at wordslikehoney.com.