Festive Flora - Where Did It Begin?
There are many plants and flowers that are considered as festive, one of the most famous being the pine tree; but most of us are ignorant to the reasons for these beliefs. Whilst we can’t be sure as to whether some of these tales are true here are the widely accepted theories behind our festive flora.
Poinsettia is a plant that flowers whilst the days are short, less than 12 hours to be exact, the poinsettia is considered a “short day plant” because of this. The poinsettia is not associated with Christmas because of its preferences for flowering or its red leaves though; there is a story behind the poinsettia and Christmas traditions. This flower takes its connection with Christmas from a Mexican tale about a young girl that wanted to give a beautiful gift to the Virgin Mary. The little girl didn’t have such a gift but still she left for church, on her way to church she met an angel that told her to pick weeds. The girl took the weeds and placed them upon the altar at the church, instantly the weeds bloomed and became poinsettia. This is the Mexican tale of how poinsettia became affiliated with Christmas.
Mistletoe is a partially parasitic plant (a hemiparasite) that survives through stealing nutrients from other plants and trees. Mistletoe is recognised for its poisonous properties that come in the form of its white berries, stalk and leaves. It was believed that those who passed under mistletoe and were kissed would receive luck and prosper, whereas those who passed under without being kissed could not expect to marry the next year, however there is a Norse legend that suggests that the tradition of kissing beneath mistletoe is because the god of the Sun was killed by an arrow made of Mistletoe, and when he was brought back to life his mother was so happy that she kissed all those that passed under the mistletoe.
Holly is another plant that is generally accepted as being a symbol of Christmas; however the tradition behind holly is far older than that of the story of Christmas. The Romans believed that if they sent holly with gifts that they gave during their winter celebrations, the sharp spines on the leaves of the holly would drive away evil spirits that sought to steal the gifts. Pagans believed that during winter holly should be used to make a warm place for fairies to sleep, and so they would bring holly indoors during the long winter nights for fairies and sprites.
Other plants that are frequently linked with Christmas and winter festivities include Ivy, Frankincense and Myrrh, so next time you’re decorating your tree or putting up a wreath ask yourself this; where did this tradition come from? For more information on festive decorations, Christmas gifts and the rest of our services visit our website at www.UKChristmasWorld.com.