December Birth Flowers & Meanings: Narcissus, Holly & Poinsettia

Three different blooms have officially been crowned December birth flowers: Narcissus, Holly and Poinsettia. And we're here to show you the symbolism and meaning behind these fascinating flowers!

Whether you’re December-born and looking for truth behind the flowers that define your birth month, or you’re looking to decorate your house or shopfront with December flowers to celebrate the holiday season, this article will tell you all you need to know about the birth flowers of December.

Narcissus (Paperwhite)

narcissus paperwhite

Our first birth flower for December is narcissus. While there are several types of narcissus flowers, including the commonly known daffodils and jonquils (which are the birthflowers for March), we're talking specifically about the paperwhite.

This is because daffodils and jonquils are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring, while paperwhites flower in the winter. In the northern hemisphere, this places them squarely in December territory, making them an ideal birth flower for the twelfth month of the year.

Paperwhites get their name from their all-white, paper-thin petals. As with other narcissus flowers, paperwhites have a very strong and distinct fragrance, which you either really love or you really hate—a bit like coriander. 

What do narcissus flowers symbolise?

paperwhite narcissus

The name "Narcissus" actually comes from Greek mythology. The legend goes that the God Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection, and that the first narcissus flowers bloomed around the pond into which he fell and drowned in his self-obsession.

For this reason, narcissus flowers can have some negative connotations, due to their association with narcism. But we're here to let you know that not all narcissus symbolism is negative!

Narcissus paperwhite is actually a symbolism of hope and devotion. To give a loved one a bouquet of paperwhite is to express your pure love for them, to say you adore them for who they are and that you hope they never change. Aww!

Being white flowers, paperwhites also symbolise purity, innocence, sweetness, hope and simplicity.

Poinsettia

red poinsettia

Our second December birth flower is poinsettia. However, what we think of as poinsettia is not actually a flower, but rather a plant. Its famous red “petals” are actually “bracts”, specialised kinds of leaves that surround the flowering part of the plant, which is comparatively insignificant (harsh, we know, but it’s true). 

A common misconception about poinsettia is that it’s highly toxic to humans and pets, but thankfully this is not the case. Though it can cause some mild irritation if touched or ingested, it’s definitely not one of the more harmful plants out there. This is despite its red colouring, which, in nature, often means danger!

What does poinsettia symbolise?

Poinsettias are also known as the Christmas Flower and the Christmas Star. Their association with Christmas goes back to a Mexican legend, but the plant’s vibrant red and green colouring also helps! That’s why, along with bells, sleighs and Santa faces, you’ll often find poinsettias printed on Christmas napery and featured elsewhere in festive decor.

In the language of flowers (despite not being a flower), poinsettias are symbolic of success and good cheer. They’re perfect for sending someone good wishes and for celebrating happy occasions, particularly during the festive season.

Holly

holly plant 

Our third December birth flower is holly. When you think of holly, you probably picture the green leaves and the bright red fruits. But did you know that only the female plant produces these red fruits? And that holly does actually flower—it’s not all fruit all the time!

Unlike poinsettia, holly is toxic to humans, dogs, cats and horses if consumed. So don’t be tempted to eat those shiny red orbs.

What does holly symbolise?

holly flower

Holly has long been associated with Christmas. You’ll often find holly on Christmas wreaths, decorating Christmas trees and in lots of other Christmas decorations. 

Long before Christmas, though, it was an important part of Pagan winter solstice celebrations in Europe, and in Saturnalia celebrations in Ancient Rome around the same time of year!

In folklore, Holly has been used to ward off evil spirits in the past and also to aid fertility (two very different things…). For the Celtics, it was a symbol of good luck and protection. In a religious sense, Christians believed that holly was symbolic of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.

In the language of flowers, holly simply represents happiness and optimism. Happiness is one of the most important things you can wish for someone, especially during the holiday period.

The Australian native December birth flower: Waratah

Image credit: Alexandra Simpson, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

Poinsettia and holly are certainly iconic, and narcissus is definitely beautiful, but the waratah is both those things and more. Just one look at those striking, one-of-a-kind red flowers and you know instantly: that’s Aussie.

The waratah is even the state floral emblem of NSW and was also the national floral emblem, too, before it was beaten out by wattle. 

The name “waratah” comes from the indigenous Eora peoples’ language, and means “red flowering tree.” Its botanical name, “telopea”, means “seen from afar.” Both are very accurate names! 

While the waratah doesn’t have a specific meaning in the language of flowers, it definitely has significant cultural meaning. We spoke about poinsettia and holly being featured in festive decor. Well, the Waratah has been featured in all manner of Australian-themed decor and gifting paraphernalia—from stamps to tea towels to cushions to keyrings to mugs to stained glass windows. 

The waratah is as much a symbol of this country as holly and poinsettia are Christmas. We couldn’t think of a more fitting Australian native birth flower for December than the waratah.