Christmas Trees, Mistletoe and Poinsettias
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This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
An evergreen tree is a Christmas tradition in many American homes. The tree is usually a pine or fir dressed with lights and other colorful decorations.
Families might buy a cut tree or go to a tree farm and cut one down themselves. Some people bring a live tree in a pot into their home for the holidays and then put it back outdoors.
Some people rent a Christmas tree. Companies might bring the same live tree to the same family year after year. Or the tree might get planted in a park or someplace else where it could help the environment.
There are some trees that can be reused year after year because they are made of plastic or metal. Or, instead of a tree, some people have a small, sweet-smelling rosemary plant, cut to look like a little Christmas tree.
Another popular evergreen this time of year is the mistletoe plant. It has small white berries and leaves that feel like leather. The traditional Christmas mistletoe is native to Europe.
Ancient Druids believed mistletoe had magical powers. The plant can be found growing on apple trees, lindens, maples and poplars. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant. It connects itself to a tree and steals nutrients and water.
Today mistletoe is best known as an excuse to steal a kiss at a Christmas party. Kissing is a tradition if two people stand under mistletoe hung in a doorway.
Another plant that many people connect with Christmas is the poinsettia. Poinsettias are native to Mexico. They can be white or pink, but most are bright red. They are named after the first American ambassador to Mexico. Joel Poinsett liked them enough to send some back to the United States.
Babies or pets that chew on poinsettias might get sick. But experts say the plant is not as poisonous as some people think.
Like millions of other houses, the home of America's first president is decorated for Christmas. George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate is in Virginia.
Visitors can hear stories about what Christmas was like at Mount Vernon in the eighteenth century. The museum where visitors begin their tour is decorated with Christmas trees.
Yet Mount Vernon would not have had Christmas trees during the late seventeen hundreds, when Washington led the country. They did not become popular in the United States until the eighteen hundreds.
Visitors learn that in Washington's time, there was greenery inside the mansion, but that was probably the extent of the decorations.
And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. I'm Bob Doughty.
Contributing: Deborah Block and Jerilyn Watson