The Festive season is upon us! The end of the year approaches; a new one dawns. In this period, we traditionally use quite a lot of our plant friends as well known accompaniments for our celebrations, and I thought it might be interesting to look into the reasons why:
- Christmas Trees. Why do we install them in our homes and gardens?
Evergreen fir trees have been used for thousands of years to help us celebrate winter festivities, both Pagan and Christian. On the one hand, during the Winter Solstice, looking forward to regeneration in Spring, and on the other, as a symbol of everlasting life with God.
- The Holly and the Ivy. Why use it as decoration?
Well, apart from these plants being readily available this time of year, the origin is pre-Christian and related to the Winter Solstice. The greenery was believed to ward off evil spirits and symbolise new growth. Holly and Ivy were later used with Christian meaning; the holly representing Jesus’ crown of thorns on crucifixion; the red berries, his shed blood (from the thorny crown). The Ivy (needing something to support its growth) represents the Christian having God’s support.
- Mistletoe. Why do we have a tradition of kissing under the Mistletoe? This is particularly interesting, as the word comes from the Anglo Saxon, ‘Mistel’ and ‘Tan’ – meaning ‘Dung’ and ‘Twig’. It’s so called as the parasitic plant’s seed are deposited on (for example) a tree branch in bird’s faeces. Hanging what I like to call ‘Poo-sticks’ in the home is an ancient tradition, and again was believed to ward off bad spirits and bring good fortune. In Norse mythology, mistletoe was a sign of love and friendship; hence the customary kiss beneath. However, kissing under the ‘Poo-stick’ doesn’t seem so romantic!
- Poinsettias. Why are they so often for sale this time of year?
The Poinsettia (aka: Euphorbia pulcherrima’) is a native of Central America and flowers during winter. It was first introduced into North America by one Joel Roberts Poinsett in the early 1800s. An old Mexican story tells of a girl who, in chapel, gave a modest nativity offering of a small bouquet of Poinsettia. Said bouquet then burst into red flower and people thought it miraculous and called the plant ‘Flower of the Holy Night’.
Enough Christmas cracker information! However you celebrate this winter, we hope you enjoy it in peace and that your New Year is fruitful.