Holiday plants from around the world

France: While Christmas trees were never popular in France, most people make chocolate cakes shaped like Yule logs, called the La bûche de Noël (Christmas log). Traditionally, French families burned a large Christmas log on Christmas Eve.

Greece: Representative of St. Basil, the founder of the Greek Orthodox Church, it was a strong tradition in Greece to have a wooden bowl holding a cross entwined with basil in the house. A small amount of water in the bowl kept the basil fresh, and every day, a member of the household would take the cross and basil and use them to sprinkle holy water around the house. This was believed to protect the house from the Killantzaroi, who snuck into the houses through the chimney and caused destruction during the 12-day Christmas period.

India: Along with evergreen branches, many people in India will decorate mango and banana trees.

Iraq: Thorn bushes are burned in a bonfire and if the thorns burn to ashes, the next year will bring good luck. After the fire dies, people make wishes on the ashes by jumping over them three times.

Lebanon: About two weeks before Christmas, people plant seeds of chickpeas, lentils and wheat grains in cotton wool and water them every day. By Christmas, when the shoots are about 6 inches tall, they are used to surround the manger in nativity scenes.

Mexico: Native to Mexico, poinsettias give off colorful red blooms in the winter, just in time for Christmas. Here’s the poinsettia Christmas legend according to Frank Aguilar of the Cicero Mexican Cultural Committee: A little girl named Juanita was very poor. When the little children were preparing for Christmas and buying nice gifts for Baby Jesus, Juanita did not have the money, so she gathered a lot of twigs, sold her shoes to get a ribbon and tied the ribbon around the twigs. The other children made fun of her for her gift, and when she approached the altar of Baby Jesus she was crying because she was embarrassed. When she set the twigs down, they bloomed into flowers, and that was Jesus’ way of saying He knew her gift came from the heart.


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