When the Christmas season is upon us, our houses suddenly get a whole lot greener. We bring home Christmas trees and decorate them with shiny things, we hang wreaths on our doors and holly about the house, and kiss under the mistletoe. But, why exactly do we do all these things? Most Christmas traditions have roots from either Paganism or Christianity.
Let’s look at some of the history behind the various plants used in Christmas decorations.
O Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree is traditionally a fir tree. The fir tree has been in use for thousands of years in winter festivals and celebrations. This species of tree was used because it is an evergreen tree, which means that it displays its leaves throughout the year. In Pagan times, bringing an evergreen into the home symbolized bringing life into the home during the cold, dark winter.
Over time, the Christmas tree became a symbol of Christianity, and there are various theories on the history of this. The triangular shape of the Christmas tree is often thought to represent the holy trinity of Christ, linking back to the idea of new life suggested by the Pagans.
Today, people bring Christmas trees into their homes each year, opting either for artificial trees or real evergreen trees to enjoy the smell of fresh pine needles.
The Holly and the Ivy
The prickly points of holly leaves lent to this plant being hung over doorways and windows to fend off evil spirits hundreds of years ago. It is said that holly is a male plant while ivy is a female plant, and one tradition stated that whichever plant enters the house first in winter indicates whether the home would be ruled by the man or the woman of the house. Its connection to Christmas likely came from the fact that bringing them into the house before Christmas Eve was considered bad luck.
Holly was then adopted by Christians as a symbol of the crucifixion, with the sharp leaves representing the thorn crown on Christ’s head and the red berries representing drops of blood. How jolly!
Mistletoe (and wine)
Mistletoe is another shrub that was though to ward off evil spirits in medieval times, while also bringing good luck to the house. It most likely became associated with Christmas simply due to the fact it was widely sold along with holly and ivy around Yuletide. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe came from the Druids who saw the plant as a symbol of friendship and love, even though it can be poisonous to humans and their pets!
So, there you have it. When you’re kissing under the mistletoe this holiday season, remember that you’ve got the Druids to thank!
If you’re looking for any Christmas greenery to decorate your home, lawn, and garden with, contact Stratford Landscape Supply to see what plants we have for sale around Winston Salem, Greensboro, High Point, and Kernersville. And don’t forget to prepare your garden for winter if you haven’t already.