A Full Guide to December Birth Flowers and Their Meanings

A Full Guide to December Birth Flowers and Their Meanings

Rather than hand roses or sunflowers to a loved one during their birthday in December, why not uniquely surprise them with one of their birth flowers?

There are three amazing December birth flowers you can choose from: holly, narcissus, and poinsettia.

In this guide, we will walk you through their meanings, symbolism, and cultural relevance, among other things. Also, find out when it’s appropriate to gift these flowers outside of the month of December.

What does the holly flower symbolize?

What does the holly flower symbolize

The holly represents domestic bliss, and it makes a wonderful Christmas decoration at home. It has also been regarded as a symbol of defense, protection, and good luck for many centuries.

Its spiky green leaves led it to have the meaning of protection and security. It’s believed to protect one from house goblins, evil ghosts, witches, and lightning.

That said, holly leaves hold more negative meanings: anger, irritation, and suffering.

How can I invite luck and protection with the holly flower?

To invite luck, safety, and security into the house, the holly flower must be hung as a decoration during December or grown outside.

Hollies should only decorate the house from Christmas Eve to Epiphany Night (observed on January 5th). If you see a holly branch with red berries while removing the decorations on Epiphany Night, it is a sign that the year ahead will be a great one.

Moreover, it is said that hanging a sprig of holly in the house gives elves and fairies a place to shelter under. They will then repay this kindness by protecting the family from mischievous house goblins.

Plus, growing a holly plant outside is said to protect the house and its occupants against lightning strikes.

Outside of the aforementioned dates (Christmas Even to Epiphany Night), displaying a holly as a house decoration is believed to be unlucky.

Another belief also advises not to cut down or burn a holly tree because a witch may appear in its place. This can draw sickness, misfortune, and heartbreak as a result.

What is the etymological origin of “holly?”

What is the etymological origin of holly

The word holly evolved from Old (holegn) and Middle English (holi) and Old German (hulst) words. Its predecessor words all translate to holy or divine.

This meaning makes sense if we take into account the flower’s religious symbolism, which is the suffering of Christ, resurrection, and eternal life.

What does the narcissus flower symbolize?

What does the narcissus flower symbolize

The ever-lovely narcissus symbolizes perfect beauty, awareness, creativity, and reflection. These qualities are attached to it because of the Greek myth about the handsome boy Narcissus.

Apart from that, this December birth flower conveys the message that you sincerely respect and wish all the best for a family member or friend or want them to remain as they are.

What is the etymological origin of “narcissus?”

What is the etymological origin of narcissus

The word narcissus may have come from the Greek word nárkissos

The nárkissos plant was known for its narcotic properties. (The word narcotic itself might have been derived from narkē, meaning numbness.)

The first use of the mother word, nárkissos, can be traced back to the mid-16th century.

Another possible origin of the word is in Greek mythology. The flower’s name appears in the story of Narcissus and Echo, which was first written in Ovid’s Metamorphoses in roughly 8 AD. 

In Ovid’s story, narcissus flowers grew near the spot where the beautiful youth, Narcissus, drowned.

What does the poinsettia flower symbolize?

What does the poinsettia flower symbolize

A famous Christmas flower, poinsettias inspire goodwill and cooperation. What’s more, they signify joyfulness, peace, and purity.

The poinsettia also symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem and brings to mind Jesus’ blood with its distinct flower shape and flaming color.

You can see these flowers adorning houses, shops, and gifts during the Christmas season. They add vivid color and holiday spirit to towns and cities.

What is the etymological origin of “poinsettia?”

What is the etymological origin of poinsettia

The poinsettia flower was named in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett, the 19th-century American minister to Mexico, who is credited for introducing this plant to the States.

When can I give the holly flower as a gift?

When can I give the holly flower as a gift

To be safe, you can gift holly flowers on Christmas eve so your recipient won’t display them in their home before that. Doing the latter is said to bring about bad luck.

Or you can personally come by your relative’s place and offer to decorate their home with beautiful holly wreaths. You just need to wire the holly twigs in a circle and embellish it with rosy berries and crab apples.

When can I give the narcissus flower as a gift?

When can I give the narcissus flower as a gift

You can give narcissi or jonquils anytime you want to tell someone you appreciate, respect, and/or love them truly. It can be on Christmas, Valentine’s, or just a normal day.

In floriography or the Victorian flower language, narcissus blooms can mean telling someone, “You’re the only one” or “I like the way you are.”

What’s more, they can act as a perfect substitute for common flowers like roses, carnations, or lilies. Giving your special one narcissus flowers can be a pleasant surprise.

When can I give the poinsettia flower as a gift?

When can I give the poinsettia flower as a gift

You can give someone you care about poinsettia bouquets, wreaths, or potted plants as early as the second week of December. The holiday season in December is the ideal time to give poinsettias because they’re very popular during this period.

If you’ve been invited to a friend’s wedding, you can express your joy and best wishes on their new start as a couple with a poinsettia posy, corsage, hairpin, or other arrangements.

How is the holly flower regarded by different cultures and religions?

How is the holly flower regarded by different cultures and religions
  • Christians see the holly as a symbol of Jesus.
  • Druids believe the holly symbolizes fertility and eternal life.
  • Nordic people grow holly plants outdoors as protection from lightning strikes and evil spirits.

Holly in Christianity

To Christians, hollies stand for Jesus’ suffering when he was persecuted and crucified.

The flowers’ spiny leaves symbolize the crown of thorns that Jesus wore and the bright red berries suggest his blood.

But following his suffering is his miraculous resurrection, which also gave the holly another meaning—eternal life.

Holly in Celtic Folklore

Celtic folklore associated the holly flower with the Holly King. The Holly King was believed to be in charge of the seasons.

The king was said to have been defeated by the Oak King who then took his place as the ruler of spring until fall.

Therefore, in Celtic culture, the holly is associated with the changing of the seasons as well as the wounded king.

Why was holly sacred to the Druids?

Druids, an esoteric sect of learned and religious people among ancient Celts, thought of hollies as a flower with magical properties. 

To them, the flower meant fertility and eternal life. These meanings were inspired by the leaves’ deep-green color and the plant’s perennial life cycle.

The belief that it is unlucky to cut down a holly tree also came from these people.

Holly in Norse Culture

Nordic people revered hollies, as these flowers were related to the mighty thunder god Thor and the weather and fortune god Freyr.

The old Norse folk believed wherever there is holly, that place would be protected from lightning and poor weather.

How is the narcissus flower regarded by different cultures?

How is the narcissus flower regarded by different cultures
  • Chinese people consider the narcissus flower as a sign of wealth and fortune.
  • Egyptians use narcissus’ intoxicating fragrance as perfume.
  • Romans have about 50 wall art about Narcissus and Echo.

Daffodils in China

To the Chinese people, narcissus or daffodil is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. This is due to the flower’s bright and lively color.

For the same reason, it is also displayed and given during the Chinese Lunar New Year, which occurs every year between January 21 and February 20.

Jonquils in Egypt

Originating in South Europe and North Africa, narcissus flowers or jonquils were also prominent in ancient Egypt.

Here, the ancient people used the flower’s fragrance and made it into perfume for the pharaohs and their dwellings.

Also, it’s been found that mummies of powerful people were holding narcissus bulbs in their tombs. 

The ancient Egyptians believed that the narcissus would remind them that they’re still deeply loved and missed by their family even in the afterlife.

Narcissus in Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful young man, born of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope.

He saw his own supreme beauty reflected on a river’s surface, and he obsessively fell in love with his reflection and stared at it all day until he accidentally fell and drowned in it.

By the river where he drowned, a flower with white petals arose. This was given the name narcissus to honor the handsome youth.

Narcissus in Kurdish Culture

In Kurdish culture, the narcissus flower is used to celebrate Newroz, the region’s New Year celebration and the start of spring. This event falls on March 20th every year.

And just in case you are wondering, the Kurds live in a mountainous region bordering Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, and Syria.

How is the poinsettia flower regarded by different cultures?

How is the poinsettia flower regarded by different cultures
  • Americans regard poinsettias as a symbol of joy, cheerfulness, and blessing.
  • Mexicans have used the poinsettia for practical, aesthetic, and medicinal purposes.

Poinsettias in America

Americans associate poinsettias with the Christmas season, which often inspires kindness.

Any shade of poinsettias—red, pink, purple, or white—represents happiness, positivity, and victory, making them a great flower gift at any time of the year as well!

Poinsettias in Mexico

What did the Aztecs use poinsettia for?

The Aztecs used the flower to 1) encourage lactation in nursing mothers, 2) remove unwanted hair from the body, and 3) produce a nice red-purple dye.

They called the poinsettia flower cuetlaxochitl, which translates to “brilliant flower.”

This ancient tribe took this flower as a symbol of purity and innocence.

But even with its positive symbolism, they also believed that the flower had magical properties that could induce certain ailments in women like infection and childbirth issues.

The Mayans and Poinsettias

Mayans referred to poinsettias as k’alul wits or “ember flowers” because of their burning red appearance.

Like the Aztecs, they boiled and applied poinsettia’s red leaves and yellow flower clusters to cure issues related to childbirth and pregnancy. 

They also do the same for the roots to cure people bitten by snakes.

To this day, Teenek Indians from Southeast Mexico still use the flower as a traditional remedy for all the said ailments.

Why are poinsettias used at Christmas?

The famous practice of giving and decorating with poinsettia flowers during Christmas was inspired by a classic folk story in Mexico.

It begins with a girl wanting to offer flowers to the baby Jesus on the eve of his birthday. But because she couldn’t afford to buy any, she only offered bright weeds.

When she placed the weeds in the church, the flowers magically transformed into pretty red poinsettias.

What are other popular flowers that bloom in December?

Other beautiful flowers that bloom in December are pansies, hellebores, camellias, cyclamens, fragrant sarcococca, and winter daphne.

1. Pansies


Resembling violet flowers, pansies consist usually of five soft velvet-like petals.

They are mostly grown as annuals and love moderately cold climates. They usually open their attractive flowers in December.

2. Hellebores


Nicknamed “Lenten roses,” hellebores are sublime with their large, attractive petals and abundant stamens and carpels in the center.

In spite of their fragile appearance, they’re very hardy and bloom wonderfully from middle to late winter.

3. Camellias


Camellias are large and extraordinary evergreen shrubs with dark green shiny leaves. They come in different hues of pink, white, and red and will blossom from autumn to winter.

By the way, there are hundreds of varieties of Camellias, with many blooming during wintertime.

4. Cyclamens


Low-cover cyclamens thrive in mild climates and bear lovely reddish-pink blossoms for a long time from spring to winter.

They prefer getting winter sunlight and shaded summer sun. They come in fuchsia, lavender, white, red, and pink tones.

5. Fragrant Sarcococca

Fragrant Sarcococca

Another evergreen shrub, fragrant sarcococca has a cluster of white spider-like flowers dangling on its branch.

It grows at a slow to moderate rate and up to 3 feet in height and width. It blossoms exactly in December during which it can make the garden appealing.

Besides being an ornamental plant, it is also commonly grown as a specimen plant for study or display along with almost similar-looking plants.

6. Winter Daphne

Winter Daphne

Winter daphnes are unique and stunning as garden bed and border shrubs.

It grows a mass of flowers in a circle formation atop broad green leaves with yellow margins.

They are made for the winter and can even withstand temperatures below freezing point. However, they don’t like to be transferred to a new pot.

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