Saturday, December 24, 2022

The histories of Christmas trees and Poinsettia from Vox for Christmas Eve

I changed my mind since I wrote Festivus history, song, and drink for the rest of us; instead of two weeks of holiday material from "Saturday Night Live" for Christmas Eve, I'm sharing two videos from Vox about the history behind two of the plants used as holiday decorations, beginning with How Christmas trees stopped being just a German thing.

It's a local custom that became a worldwide tradition.
The Christmas tree tradition as we know it today has a long and varied history.

It is believed to have roots in ancient cultures, where trees were decorated as part of celebrations.

In the 1500s and 1600s, the Christmas tree became a Germanic custom, with fir trees being a popular choice.

In the 1840s, the practice of having a Christmas tree in the home became more widespread, thanks in part to the influence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who were both of German descent. The Christmas tree also gained popularity in the United States during this time due to a large influx of German immigrants. The tradition was further popularized through the mass media, such as The Illustrated London News, and the publication of Christmas cards and books like Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Today, Christmas trees can be found in homes around the world and can even be spotted from satellite images of Christmas tree farms.
Why am I not surprised that Christmas trees became more widely popular through the British royal family, which is originally German, intermarrying with their sometimes not-so-distant cousins from Germany at least twice, and then from German emigration to the U.S. and elsewhere? Then again, I shouldn't complain, as I'm one-eighth German and one-eighth English, so I wouldn't exist without German immigration into the U.S.*

The other video Vox uploaded on the general subject was The case to rename this famous Christmas plant.

Why the story of the poinsettia is a troubling one.
Depending on where you live, there is one plant that you can spot anywhere during the winter holiday season (outside of, well, Christmas trees): poinsettias. It was named for the first US minister to Mexico: Joel Poinsett. In Mexico, Poinsett saw the plant — called cuetlaxochitl by the Aztec and with a long history of use in the region — and shipped some cuttings back to the US.

Many around the world started calling the plant “poinsettia” to celebrate Poinsett’s legacy. But that legacy is a troubling one. Poinsett was a slave owner, a firm believer in American expansion, and during his tenure as secretary of war he oversaw the displacement of thousands of Native Americans. In his role as minister to Mexico, he meddled so much in local politics that he was asked to leave the country.

Because of that history — and the fact that the US still corners the lucrative poinsettia market while restricting their imports from Mexico — many people today reject the name poinsettia in favor of the plant’s Native name, cuetlaxochitl. Check out the video above for more on how the US got the poinsettia.
While I will still say that any day I learn something new is a good day, learning about Poinsett's key role in The Trail of Tears is enough to make me want to change the name I use for the plant. I take that fact a bit personally for reasons I described a decade ago.
My wife, my ex-girlfriend, and my ex-wife all have Native American ancestry. At least two of them would qualify as Native Americans under U.S. government policy, and one of them is enrolled as a Cherokee...
Now to choose between cuitlaxochitl and flor de noche buena. Decisions, decisions.

Follow over the jump for two drink recipes for the holiday.

I'm embedding a drink recipe from a channel I didn't know about until just now, when I searched for Christmas Tree cocktails and retrieved Christmas tree: How to make homemade Christmas tree cocktail from Issa Bartender.

Let's make Christmas cocktail at home. Cocktail name is Christmas tree cocktail.

In this video, Issa Bartender will teach you how to make homemade Christmas tree cocktail.

You can also use gin instead of rum in this cocktail.
Instead of cranberry syrup, you can use cranberry juice (60 ml) with simple syrup (15 ml).

Rum (or Gin) 60 ml
Cranberry syrup 45 ml
Lime juice 30 ml
Garnish: pomegranate seeds slice of lime (and rosemary)
I've subscribed to the channel, so expect to see more drink recipes from Issa Bartender in the future.

Today is also Eggnog Day, so I'm sharing Eggnog Recipes To Make This Christmas • Tasty.

Sip on some eggnog this holiday season with the help of these festive recipes!
Watching that didn't make me thirsty, it made me hungry, so I'm going to eat lunch.  In the meantime, stay tuned for Christmas songs from Broken Peach.

*The rest of my ancestry is split about evenly between Irish and Scots-Irish. Since the majority of my ancestors came to the U.S. from Ireland, even if some of their ancestors were originally from Scotland, and I was baptised Catholic, I consider myself an Irish-American.

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