Christmas is a time of tradition and ritual, such as singing “We wish you a merry Christmas” to the Christmas pudding as it emerges, alight, into the dining room… (OK, so that’s a personal tradition, but I have only just found this out. I thought everyone did this up until last year!)
Every day until Christmas Day, we will explain where and why a Christmas tradition came about. Today, holly!
Holly | Europe
Holly – it’s on cards, in songs, on wreaths and used in all sorts of other Christmas decorations. But why is it so festive? After all, it’s quite a vicious plant, as plants go; all those prickles! Well, it’s used because it’s symbolic.
In pre-Christian times, Druids considered holly a lucky plant because whilst everything else died in winter, holly remained green and alive. And the red berries signified life and hope. So it was considered good luck to have holly in your home during the winter months, and incredibly bad luck if you were to cut down a holly tree!
As Christianity started to spread across Europe, the symbolism of holly altered to fit in with Christian beliefs. The red berries symbolised the blood Jesus shed for mankind, and the prickles symbolise the crown of thorns Jesus had to wear on the way to his crucifixion.
Another Christian belief is that holly berries were once white, but as Jesus bled on them they were forever changed to red.
Photo credits: Jürgen Howaldt, emma_currantbun, Sugar Daze,