If you have time--and are lucky enough to live near a nursery--go in on your lunch break sometime and walk through the poinsettias. I snuck into Sunrise today to do just that and it was like stepping into another world. First of all, it's freezing outside and the greenhouse is perfectly warm. And inside, rows and rows and more rows of perfect "Christmas red" leaves--puckery "Winter Rose" poinsettias, poinsettias with leaves like flaming maples, and a tiny miniature poinsettia in a baby pot that came home with me.

For a long time I thought we weren't going to be able to have a poinsettia this year because of the pups. At some point someone told me they were poisonous to dogs and cats, but I did some research and have found that that's a myth. Well, not entirely a myth, but even little Moe would have to eat about 300 leaves. My little mini-poinsettia might just barely give him a stomach ache.

Poinsettias originally came from Mexico, and were used by the Aztecs to dye cloth. They were imported to the United States by Joel Poinsett, the first American ambassador to Mexico--hence the name.

But sometimes legend is more fun than fact.

"Legend says that Pepita, a poor Mexican girl, had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve mass. As Pepita walked slowly to the chapel with her cousin Pedro, sadness filled her heart. Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a bouquet. Looking at the scraggly weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed by the humbleness of her offering, but felt her spirit lift as she knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene.

Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as Las Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season."