Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
The poinsettia (/pɔɪnˈsɛtiə/ or /pɔɪnˈsɛtə/) (Euphorbia pulcherrima) (also known as Christmas Star) is a commercially important plant species of the diverse spurge family Euphorbiaceae. The species is indigenous to Mexico. It is particularly well known for its red and green foliage and is widely used in Christmas floral displays. It derives its common English name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant to the US in 1825. Poinsettias are popular Christmas decorations in homes, churches, offices, and elsewhere across North America. They are available in large numbers from grocery, drug, and hardware stores. In the United States, December 12 is National Poinsettia Day.
Religious and other traditional associations
The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an antipyretic medication. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the plant is called Cuitlaxochitl, meaning "flower that grows in residues or soil" Today it is known in Mexico and Guatemala as "Flor de Noche Buena", meaning Christmas Eve Flower. In Spain it is known as "Flor de Pascua "or "Pascua", meaning Easter flower. In the southern hemisphere it doesn't have an association with Christmas which happens during the Summer. In Uruguay and Argentina it is known as "Estrella Federal", in Chile and Peru, the plant became known as "Corona de los Andes". In Hungarian, it is called Santa Claus' Flower, and is widely used as a Christmas decoration.
The plant's association with Christmas began in 16th-century Mexico, where legend tells of a girl, commonly called Pepita or Maria, who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus' birthday and 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 poinsettias. From the 17th century, Franciscan friars in Mexico included the plants in their Christmas celebrations. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus.
Thanksgiving dinner (food)
The centerpiece of contemporary Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada is a large meal, generally centered on a large roasted turkey. It is served with a variety of side dishes which vary from traditional dishes such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, to ones that reflect regional or cultural heritage. The majority of the dishes in the traditional American version of Thanksgiving dinner are made from foods native to the New World, as according to tradition the Pilgrims received these foods, or learned how to grow them, from the Native Americans. Thanksgiving dinner is the largest eating event in the United States; people eat more on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year.
According to what traditionally is known as "The First Thanksgiving" the 1621 feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony contained waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. William Bradford noted that, "besides waterfowl, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many." Many of the foods that were included in the first feast (except, notably, the seafood) have since gone on to become staples of the modern Thanksgiving dinner. Early feasts of the Order of Good Cheer, a French Canadian predecessor to the modern Thanksgiving, featured a potluck dinner with freshly-hunted fowl, game, and fish, hunted and shared by both French Canadians and local natives.
Turkey is the most common main dish of a Thanksgiving dinner, to the point where Thanksgiving is sometimes colloquially called “Turkey Day.”
Most Thanksgiving turkeys are stuffed with a bread-based mixture and roasted. Sage is the traditional herb added to the stuffing, along with chopped celery, carrots, and onions. Other ingredients, such as chopped chestnuts or other tree nuts, crumbled sausage or bacon, cranberries, raisins, or apples, may be added to stuffing. If this mixture is prepared outside the bird, it may be known as dressing. Deep-fried turkey is rising in popularity due to its shorter preparation time, but carries safety risks.
Many Americans would say it is "incomplete" without cranberry sauce, stuffing or dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and brussels sprouts. Other commonly served dishes include winter squash and sweet potatoes, the latter often prepared with sweeteners such as brown sugar, molasses, or marshmallows. Fresh, canned, or frozen corn is popular and green beans are frequently served; in particular, green bean casserole, a product invented in 1955 by the Campbell Soup Company to promote use of its cream of mushroom soup, has become a Thanksgiving standard. A fresh salad may be included, especially on the West Coast. Bread rolls or biscuits and cornbread, especially in the South and parts of New England, are served. For dessert, various pies are usually served, particularly pumpkin pie, though apple pie, mincemeat pie, sweet potato pie, and pecan pie are often served as well.
The beverages at Thanksgiving can vary as much as the side dishes, often depending on who is present at the table and their tastes. Spirits or cocktails sometimes may be served before the main meal. On the dinner table, unfermented apple cider (still or sparkling) or wine are often served. Pitchers of sweet tea can often be found on Southern tables. Beaujolais nouveau is sometimes served; the beverage has been marketed as a Thanksgiving drink since the producers of the wine (which is made available only for a short window each year) set the annual release date to be one week before Thanksgiving beginning in 1985, and it is said to pair well with the wide variety of food served for Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving marks the beginning of eggnog season.