It’s Lent, Part 2: Let your poinsettia die

I tolerate poinsettias at Christmas, because, well, they can’t be avoided and I don’t want my holidays to be ruined by hatred. The poinsettia is everywhere, a sometimes-beautiful red (and often-weird white) profusion that practically defines Christmas decor. We apparently have Joel Robert Poinsett (1779-1851) to blame. Wikipedia tells us that the poinsettia “is a culturally and commercially important plant species of the diverse spurge family.” That ugly word sounds about right.  Just in case you’ve forgotten, this is what a poinsettia looks like at Christmas:

poinsettia alive

But why bring this up now, you ask? We are well into Lent, and purple liturgical things, and spring is coming (at least here in Texas.) I’ll tell you why.

Second only to the mystifying popularity of this spurge is the mystifying lengths to which people will go to Keep It Alive As Long As Possible. Unlike every other seasonal decoration in the world which rots nicely (the Halloween pumpkin) or gets eaten (the Easter egg) or burns itself out (the July 4 firework) the poinsettia never really goes away, is never really allowed simply to die.  It’s like we feel guilty or something. We don’t want to just throw it away, and it doesn’t seem right just to leave it outside (too much like the ancient Greek practice of the exposure of infants, I guess.)

I work in a wonderful place which, like many such places, decorates at Christmas with donated poinsettias. (Important Aside: Hi, you guys. I am not being critical. Love you.) After the holidays, people are supposed to take with them the plant that they paid for, ostensibly so they can enjoy it at home. Really, though, I think we want people to take them home because of this kind of thing, which I saw today in the office workroom:

dead poinsettia

I left the paper cutter in the frame, because it would be a quick and painless way to put this poor thing out of its misery. I left the room thinking about Death Row.

But then later on a drive I saw the first spring bluebonnet. Bluebonnets, in case you didn’t know, are actually a nice springy, Lenten purple. And I thought of my friends who are still suffering in the snow. And I listened to this, from Eric Clapton. Okay, let the thing live as long as it wants to. Life is short enough. Life goes on. Love goes on. Let it grow.

Let it grow, let it grow
Let it blossom, let it flow.
In the sun, the rain, the snow,
Love is lovely, let it grow.

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