4# The legend of Madelon and the Christmas rose

Christmas is the season of giving gifts showing love towards one another (well, more or less). But this does not mean that the gifts are the sole expression of your love, as gift is never costlier or more valuable than something that comes straight from the heart.
The tradition of gifts during Christmas originated from the kind gestures of the three Wise Men who brought expensive presents for the Infant Jesus to welcome him into this world, or maybe from Babushka, the Russian popular character, so popular that many Russians don’t even know her.
Since then, people have made gifts a real Christmas tradition. But, in any case, what must be remembered, is that the gesture counts more than the gift itself.
Perhaps, this legend originated just to teach people that, no matter what you gift, it must be from the heart and soul – even if the gift in question is just a flower.
It is also thanks to this legend that the Christmas rose, the flower which only blooms during the chill of winter, has become an important part of Yuletide celebrations.

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. It is one of the easiest and most rewarding of garden plants to grow, and its ability 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 have shiny, dark green leaves of a leathery texture, and each flower stalk bears a single white bloom, often tinged with pink.

According to the legend, on a cold December night, everybody was coming to see Baby Jesus and brought Him all kinds of gifts and presents, including the three Wise Men, with their valuable gifts of myrrh, frankincense and gold.
While a little shepherd girl named Madelon tended to her sheep one cold and wintry night, Wise Men and shepherds passed by her snow-covered field bearing gifts for the Christ Child.
She reached the door of the stable, to see the Child but she saw the Magi present so precious gift…and even the humble shepherds had brought fruits, honey and doves to give to the babe…and she, being very poor, 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.
Earlier, she had searched, in vain, for flowers all over the countryside but there was not even a single bloom to be found in the bitter winter.
An angel outside the door was watching over her and knew about her fruitless search. He took pity on her and, when he saw her head drooped down in sorrow, decided to help her with a little miracle: he gently brushed aside the snow at her feet and where her tears had fallen, sprang a beautiful cluster of waxen white winter roses with pink tipped petals. Then he softly whispered into the shepherdess’s ear that these Christmas roses are far more valuable than any myrrh, frankincense or gold, for they are pure and made of love. The maiden was pleasantly surprised when she heard those words and, overjoyed, gathered the flowers and offered them to the Holy Infant, who, seeing that the gift came from tears of love, smiled at her with gratitude and satisfaction. Thus, the Christmas rose came to symbolize hope, love and all that is wonderful in this season.

The same legend also has some foundation in this 15th Century German poem, “Es ist ein Ros’ Entsprungen”:

A Rose has sprung from a tender root,
From Jesus, as those of old have sung,
And it bore a flower,
In the middle of a cold winter,

When half spent was the night.
Isaiah foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
Is Mary the pure, the little flower has brought us.
From God’s eternal wisdom, she bore a child,
And remained pure.

The Flower, so small, whose sweet fragrance fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True man and truer God, helps us out of all sorrows,
Saves from sin and death.

Oh Jesus, until we leave this misery,
Let your help guide us into joy,
In Your Father’s Kingdom, where we eternally praise You.
Oh God, allow us this.

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