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Guest column: The Christmas star flower, a hope for peace
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How beautiful, the Christmas Flower! I offer you this lovely short story of the season.

Once there was a young brother and sister who were very poor. They lived in a tiny village and had barely enough to eat two meals each day. As Christmas approached, festivities known as posadas were planned throughout the town, attracting adults and children alike. A charming manger scene was set up in the central church yard and all the children were eager to go and visit baby Jesus and give him the best present they could manage.

Maria and Pedro also wanted to give a grand present to the holy child that He would love. But they knew that they had no money to buy presents and had nothing of their own that they could gift to the child. Yet, they could not let pass a chance to show Him their love.

So on Christmas Eve, Maria and Pedro set out for church a little earlier than others to attend the service. Since they had nothing to give to the child, they plucked some weeds and gathered some sticks from the roadside to make a soft bed for baby Jesus and decorate his crib.

While they were still decorating the crib of the baby, other children also arrived. With presents in hand, the other children cruelly teased Maria and Pedro for their humble offering. Maria and Pedro were almost brought to tears for shame.

Then, a miracle! Suddenly, the weeds and sticks burst into brilliant red petals that looked like stars, so beautiful that everyone was left in awe. Then, all understood that a gift of love is dearer to God than the most expensive presents that money could buy.

In the 1820s, Dr. Joel Poinsett, a physician and botanist who served as Secretary of War and the first U.S. Minister (ambassador) to Mexico, brought the native bright red star-shaped flower back to the United States. Hence, it was named "poinsettia." It is also known as "Flor de Noche Buena" in Mexico, or "Flower of the Holy Night."

Ever since then, poinsettias or Christmas flowers have become favorites for all.

Dona Nobis Pacem. In just a few more days, every single American soldier will be home at last from Iraq. We owe them so much gratitude for the sacrifices they have made over these last 10 years. As they gather together this season with us friends and family, neighbors and strangers, too, like so many sticks from the roadside, let us show them this gift of love: that we will humbly strive to show love to our fellow man here, so that they need never return there.

In the words of a famous melodic entomologist, "War is over! Happy Christmas!"

Arturo Corso is a Gainesville resident.

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