The legends and traditions of Christmas | Column gardening

The holiday season surrounds us with rich traditions and legends. These often include holly, ivy, mistletoe, bay leaf, cut evergreen trees, and poinsettias, all in a red, green, and gold color scheme. Have you ever thought about the why of using all of these plants?

Below is a lot of interesting information about the flowers and greenery that adorn homes at this time of year.


Most of the colors come from the traditions of Western / Northern Europe.

• Green represented vitality and life. Winter, a dreary and gloomy time of year, might never seem to end, but the green of evergreen plants like holly, ivy, and mistletoe offered hope for another spring. In Egypt, green palm leaves were brought home during mid-winter festivals. The Romans traded bundles of evergreen branches in January as a sign of good luck.

• Red could be found in the color of holly berries, and it was also the color of bishops’ robes. In the Middle Ages, Europeans performed the Heaven play on Christmas Eve, and the “Tree of Heaven” was often a pine tree with red apples attached.

• Gold reminded people of the sun, its heat and light. This was reflected in the fires in the foyer of the house. In the story of the birth of Christ, a shining star led the wise men to the stable, and gold was one of the gifts given to the newborn.

• White, like freshly fallen white winter snow, was seen as a sign of purity and peace.

Conifers (holly, mistletoe, ivy, laurel)

Originally, evergreen plants were used in pre-Christian times to help celebrate the winter solstice festival, to symbolize new growth and fertility, and to ward off evil spirits. As Christianity spread across Europe, new traditions have emerged.

• The holly leaves, which are quite pungent, came to represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore, and the berries represented the drops of blood shed by the wearing of the crown.

• Mistletoe is a semi-parasite that lives in the canopy of trees and obtains its nutrients from the tree. He was believed to hold mystical powers of luck and fortune and the ability to ward off evil spirits. Kissing under the mistletoe became popular from the illustrations seen in the book version of “A Christmas Carol” in 1843.

• Ivy is a spreading vine that grows upward by aerial rootlets that cling to a support. It represents the need for us to hold on to God for support.

• The laurel, placed like a wreath on the head, has long been used to symbolize victory and success for thousands of years.

Christmas tree

The use of an evergreen tree during the holiday season can be attributed to 8th century St. Boniface who used the triangular shape to teach the Trinity to the Germanic tribes. It is said that he felled an oak which was used to sacrifice children to the gods of the tribes. In its place, a small tree emerges, symbolizing the transition from pagan worship to the new Christian worship. In the 11th century, evergreen trees were decorated with fruits to symbolize the tree of life found in the Bible in the book of Genesis. These decorated trees were called trees of paradise. 16th century Martin Luther also played a role in the use of Christmas trees. After worshiping in the Christmas Eve service, he left the church to see the starlight reflecting off the icicles of evergreen trees nearby. He remembered the Savior, the Light of the world, so he cut down a little tree and brought it home with him. He decorated it with candles to illustrate his belief in the Baby Jesus.


The origin begins with the legend that a poor Mexican girl, Pepita, wanted to bring a gift to baby Jesus during a Christmas Eve service. She had nothing to offer except a handful of weeds growing in the field. As she walked up to the altar and laid the bouquet at the bottom of the crib, the weed bouquet took on a beautiful bright red color. All who witnessed the event considered it a miracle. Since that day, the “Flores de Noche Buena” (Flowers of the Holy Night) have been part of the end-of-year celebrations. The popular use of poinsettia in the United States is due to a United States Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who took a keen interest in the plants he saw growing in the Taxco area in 1825 and brought them to life. returned some to its greenhouses in South Carolina. . He began to cultivate them and send them to botanical gardens and friends. A friend, John Bartram, grew the plants in his garden where they were introduced into commerce at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s first biannual fruit, flower, and plant exhibition in 1829.

Flower wreaths

Circular wreaths date back to Roman times, when wreaths were hung on doorways as a sign of status and wealth or victory. They were used by wealthy women as headdresses on special occasions such as weddings. Roman emperors wore laurel wreaths indicating their kingship. Laurel wreaths were also presented to the winners of the first Olympic Games in Greece. Christmas wreaths may have originated from the branch of the kiss, a popular British decoration consisting of five hoops (four vertical and one horizontal around the center) each covered with holly, fir, ivy, rosemary or bay leaf with an apple hanging in the middle of the hoops and a bunch of mistletoe hanging from the bottom of the balloon. Variations of the kiss branch have evolved over the years for some with a single hoop, like the Christmas wreath.

And so, as you decorate your tree, decorate your room with holly, bring the Christmas poinsettia, and hang the mistletoe, remember that you are joining many others in celebrating the happy holiday season enriched by traditions and the legends of past centuries. !

Comments are closed.