The poinsettia has become the expected flower of the season, no doubt due to the bright red and green colors it offers- colors which the secular world has adopted as the official Colors of Christmas. In actuality, Christmastide is a season for which the Church has advocated the use of white- or gold, white, and/or silver. Yes, there are red feast days, Holy Innocents and St. Stephen, Martyr- but white is the color for Christmas. There might be white poinsettias, paperwhites, white amaryllis, white orchids, white tulips, white chrysanthemums, white roses. The white rose has historically been the symbol for the Incarnation.
If red poinsettias are a must-have in your parish, there are a few tips to consider. In the slide show below, have a good look at the pots. Do you see rich red flower heads- or do you see reams of shiny bright gold foil? Silver, red, gold, and patterned high sheen foils will snatch the glory from just about any flower. Nurseries and florists now stock pre-formed dark green foil “cups” which will snug around the green plastic pot and which will keep your plants from dribbling but at the same time not scream FOIL. Cheap ribbon bows and furbelows seldom improve the beauty of fresh plants, especially in a sacred space. Natural is always preferable. Another important consideration is plant placement. Masses of grouped pots in front of the altar overwhelm the chancel and make processing a logistical nightmare. Decoration should never interfer with the traffic pattern or accessibility of the clergy, choir and altar party. Pots strung out all in a row like a line of soldiers decked out in shiny foil is also not a pleasing vision. Group odd numbers (3,5,7,) of plants together and remember sight lines for those sitting in pews. Flowers on the floor do not get seen. Poinsettia pots in windows can be tipped so the rich flower heads are showing, not the ugly pots, by using a small block of wood or prop so the pot may be tipped with heads pointing outward. This will make a far more pleasing vision. Mix poinsettias with other fresh greens like cypress, fir, holly, and wonderful potted ivies. Most of all, plants and flowers, in most cases are memorials- and given in memory of departed loved ones who can no longer be with us at Christmas. Thoughtful placement, therefore, is so important.