Deck The Halls With Boughs of Holly… or Poinsettia!
There are certain plants which we associate with Christmas – and it would seem crazy to hear of them or see them any other time of the year! Plants symbolise new life and hope, something which goes hand in hand with celebrating Christmas. However, there is more to the story behind these plants: where their traditions originated from and how they have ‘evolved’ to fit into modern day life.
The Poinsettia, otherwise known as Cuitlaxochitl, means ‘flower that grows in residues or soil’. It originates from Mexico where the Aztec people would use the flower to produce red dye and create medicine – it hasn’t always been associated with Christmas! The association first began in the 16th century, in Mexico, where legend states that a young girl was too poor to buy a present for the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday. Apparently, she was inspired by an angel to collect weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson flowers sprouted within weeks and this was the birth of the ‘poinsettia’. It is said that the star shape of the leaves symbolises the Star of Bethlehem and the deep, red colour of the leaves suggest the blood shed when Jesus was crucified. It is a plant that is popular all year round but is really appreciated during the festive period. Even though red is the most popular, there are different colours of the leaves (pale green, cream and pink) making this plant suitable for all year round.
Have you ever had the chance to kiss a lucky lady under the mistletoe? Mistletoe is an ancient symbol of fertility and was extremely important and emblematic during the Druid ages. Nowadays, it is just a cheeky excuse to kiss your loved one (or it may turn into a future loved one!) and celebrate Christmas. It is a rather odd tradition as the mistletoe is linked to Paganism and is often banned from Christmas decorations in churches; it seems strange that the mistletoe is linked to this religious celebration.
Holly leaves and berries are one of the most popular symbols of Christmas in many Western cultures. It is used in traditional decoration such as wreaths and garlands and the outline is often depicted on Christmas cards. Since medieval times Holly has carried a certain Christian symbolism however the tradition of using Holly in winter celebrations undoubtedly pre-dates Christianity.