The Legend of the Christmas Rose

xchristmas_rose(Photo © Trond Steen)

A well-known English plant, the Helleborus niger or “Christmas Rose,” is a true Christmas flower. Sometimes known as the “Snow Rose” or “Winter Rose,” it blooms during the depths of winter in the mountains of Central Europe. One of the easiest and most rewarding of garden plants to grow, the ability of the Christmas Rose to bloom during the darkest months of the year when everything else is frozen solid, makes it a valuable asset to any garden. The Christmas Rose produces flowers from late Fall until early Spring. These evergreen perennials grow to be approximately 15 inches tall and have shiny, dark green leaves of a leathery texture. Each flower stalk bears a single 2 inch to 4 inch white bloom (often tinged with pink).

By tradition, the Christmas Rose (whose roots are poisonous) should be planted by the door in order that it might welcome Christ into the home.

The Legend of the Christmas Rose is a charming tale of a little shepherd girl named Madelon.

As Madelon tended to her sheep one cold and wintry night, Wise Men and shepherds passed by Madelon’s snow-covered field bearing gifts for the Christ Child. Following, Madelon saw the Magi present gold, myrrh and frankincense to the baby…even the humble shepherds had brought fruits, honey and doves to give to the babe…but Madelon had nothing, not even a simple flower for the Newborn King. Standing outside the stable where Jesus had been born, poor Madelon wept, wishing that she had a gift she could carry to the infant. A watching Angel, taking pity on Madelon, caused the snow at the feet of the small girl feet to vanish, thus revealing a most beautiful white flower whose petals were tipped with pink, formed by the Angel from the tears which had fallen from the eyes of the little shepherdess. Overjoyed, Madelon presented her gift at the manger of the baby Jesus…her gift of the Christmas Rose.  (Info source)

xdecember_rose_cupThe Christmas Rose is featured on a lot of holiday tableware, including this teacup and saucer from Royal Albert’s Flower of the Month series.  (Photo credit)


Author: nancybond

A writer, photographer, naturalist from small town Nova Scotia, Canada.

14 thoughts on “The Legend of the Christmas Rose”

  1. This is something I don’t have in my garden believe it or not. Definitely on my must have list for next season. Thanks for all the great history & information about the Christmas Rose Nancy. :)

  2. Well, now I will have to check into that flower next year. I do have a red camelia blooming by the front door, which looks very similar, actually. Last year it blossomed at the “wrong time” but this year it came in for Christmas, and I was pleased. I do think it’s called Christmas camelia and I’m grateful for its cheery presence. Thank you for bringing this one to our attention. I do love the story that accompanies it. xooxo

  3. Nancy,
    Being a history lover and a plantaholic I loved this post and the lovely photos you inserted. Here’s hoping your Christmas is very merry and all the best to you in 2009!

    Jon at Mississippi Garden

  4. Nancy, I love helebores and do grow Christmas Rose, though it is marginal here because of our heat. It requires shade in the summer and only morning sun in the winter to thrive here. The flowers are so lovely in the winter.
    Here’s wishing you a merry Christmas.

    Always Growing

  5. I’ve never been successful growing a hellebore either but yours is lovely. As is the story (also new to me). One of these days I will get it right because I can’t think of anything more pleasurable than having a blossom that early in the year. Love the tea cup & saucer too!

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