Flower Gardening, Vintage Jewelry

Legends of the Christmas Rose, Giovanni Rose Brooch and the Hellebore Flowering Plant

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Vintage Christmas Rose Brooch signed “GIOVANNI” c. 1966

I love long stem rose brooches, and I recently had this beauty sale in my Etsy shop.  I also love plants and gardening.  So I thought I would write a blog post about the history of the brooch, the legends surrounding the Christmas Rose, and information about the plant and it’s hybrids which are commonly found in garden centers.

The Christmas Rose Brooch was made by the Longcraft Company under the trademark GIOVANNI in 1966.  The Longcraft company was founded in Boston in 1878 by Thomas Long.  The company exists today under the name Long’s Jewelers.  The brooches originally came with a silk lined box and a Christmas poem card titled “Legend of the Christmas Rose” written by Virginia McElroy Anderson which I have typed below:

“With spices rare and gifts of gold
The wise men journeyed far –
Called forth by prophecy of old,
led onward by a star –

Shepherds left there flocks at night
to seek the new-born King –
With cuddled lambs sped toward the light,
their humble gifts to bring –

A shepherd girl in silence wept
no gift to give had she –
Then by the crib where Jesus slept,
watched she miraculously –

Where tears of sorrow downward flowed
stood blooms of crystal bright –
She gently woke the babe and showed
to him the marvelous sight –

His little blessed hands reached out
to touch the fragile gems –
Before those gathered all about,
the blossoms and the stems

In glorious color bloomed alive,
each dew-dropped with a tear –
Thus, did the Christmas rose arrive
to bloom anew each year.”

There are multiple stories that have been passed down through generations about the legend.   A well known book about the legend is “The Legend of the Christmas Rose” by Selma Lagerlöf published in 1910.  The book is about an outlaws wife who reveals a miracle flower that blooms Christmas Eve in remembrance of the birth of Christ in order to get her husband pardoned.  If you are interested in reading it, a reproduction of the book can be found on Amazon in hardback and paperback.

All of the stories and legends of the Christmas Rose are based on the evergreen perrennial flower plant Helleborus niger, or Hellebore as it is more commonly known, that blooms during the winter to early spring in european climates.   

Hellebore or “Christmas Rose”, scientific name:  Helleborus niger


Hellebores generally grow 9–12 inches tall, and have large flat white, purple, or pink flowers.  The tips of the flower can have a pink or green tint and the center of the flower is yellow.  Interestingly enough, it is prized among gardeners because it is the first flower to bloom in the spring even though it is poisonous.  It contains protoanemonin and ranunculin which is released if the plant is picked or wounded.  Skin contact can cause a rash and blistering.  Ingestion  can cause nausea and vomiting, dizziness and spasms, acute hepatitis and jaundice, or paralysis.

I think the Hellebore is a beautiful plant, and I have seen oriental hybrids of the plant at garden centers in the past.  The hybrids are called Lenten Rose or Helleborus x hybridus.  The lenten name comes from the fact that the hybrid flower blooms in early spring during Lent, which is observed by some Christian denominations.  If I can find one this spring, I would like to try growing one.  Here are some pictures of Hellebore hybrids:

Hellebore Christmas Rose Helleborus niger

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And a chromolithograph with a prayer about the Hellebore:

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No. 6., Heleborus niger (German-Christ flower) Chromolithograph by Helga von Cramm & prayer by Y.E.T., c. 1880  published by C. Caswell (public domain)





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