This is a guest post by Speakin_Colors.
Among the many animals associated with Christmas, there is one which features extensively on cards, wrapping paper, cake decorations and crackers: the Robin Redbreast. The robin appears in many Christmas motifs even though it is extremely rare to see a robin at Christmastime since it is not precisely a winter animal. So why is it so popular? The answer lies in its red breast:
”The robin has become strongly associated with Christmas, taking a starring role on many a Christmas card since the mid-19th century. The Robin has also appeared on many Christmas postage stamps. An old British folk tale seeks to explain the Robin's distinctive breast. Legend has it that when Jesus was dying on the cross, the Robin, then simply brown in colour, flew to his side and sang into his ear in order to comfort him in his pain. The blood from his wounds stained the Robin's breast, and thereafter all Robins got the mark of Christ's blood upon them. An alternate legend has it that its breast was scorched fetching water for souls in Purgatory. The association with Christmas, however, more probably arises from the fact that postmen in Victorian Britain wore red uniforms and were nicknamed "Robin"; the Robin featured on the Christmas card is an emblem of the postman delivering the card”. - wikipedia
Christmas greeting cards originated in Victorian England, that is why it is not surprising that the robin became one of the most popular Christmas motifs then. There was a time, however, in which the robin's association with Christmas proved to be positively dangerous. As Victorian tastes grew more extravagant, robins were even killed to decorate cards with real feathers. Robin feathers are still used nowadays to decorate Christmas cards but they are made of artificial materials.
Foreigners visiting Argentina around Christmas time have the opportunity to witness a phenomenon that does not take place in other countries: pink panties flooding lingerie shop windows.
According to old family traditions, pink panties must be given to single women on Christmas Eve. As pink is the colour of romantic love, the gift is believed to bring good luck either to get a suitable husband or as a symbol of fertility. In some families, however, the tradition of giving pink panties extends to all the female members, regardless of their age or marital status.
There are different opinions as to the proper time to wear the panties for the first time: some women wear them on Christmas Day, some others wait until New Year’s Day.
There are numerous theories to explain why the panties must be pink. The commonplace belief is that pink is the right colour to keep evil away since pink is a mixture of red (traditionally, the colour of the devil) and white (the colour of God). It is also thought that wearing new clean clothes is a powerful cleansing ritual.
Christmas is an event of utmost significance for Christianity and pink is widely used in the Catholic church. Pink candles are lighted in the Christian season of Advent (the liturgical period preceding Christmas) to symbolize the joy for the coming of Christ.
Leaving spiritual reasons aside, the truth is that every Christmas lingerie shop owners rub their hands in anticipation of the annual shopping bonanza. Sales of pink panties (from audacious bikinis to more prudish romantic designs, from lace and silk to the unprententious cotton) increase amazingly all through December.
One more thing about this Christmas custom is that pink panties are given from woman to woman: traditionally it is the grandmothers, mothers or aunts who give them to the younger members of the family. No woman would ever think it possible to receive such a gift from a man!
The poinsettia is not only a beautiful plant but also a very mysterious one. Its flaming red “flowers” are not such but modified leaves which change their colour when exposed to sunlight.
The plant is wholly green in its youth but its upper leaves gradually begin to turn red as they grow in the sunlight of a warm climate.
The deep red colour of the plant has long been associated with Christ’s blood and has given rise to numerous speculations and explanatory legends:
“The plant's association with Christmas began in 16th century Mexico, where legend tells of a young girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday. The tale goes that the child was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson "blossoms" sprouted from the weeds and became beautiful poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations.” - wikipedia
There is another misconception about the name of the plant. Many people believe the poinsettia is highly toxic since its name has a connection with “poison”. Very few people know, however, that the plant owes its name to Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico who introduced it into the US in 1828.
Did you know?
National Poinsettia Day is celebrated on December 12th in the United States. The day was named in honour of Joel Poinsett who died on this day in 1851.