Festive Holly or Christ’s Thorn and Legend
This year the holly bush in my garden has abundant scarlet berries which will glow against the green, prickly leaves in my house and connect it with the past because holly was used to decorate mediaeval houses in the dark days of midwinter. However, holly and other greenery were disapproved of by the church because of their connection to pagan customs. Druids decorated their huts with holly, ivy and mistletoe; Romans exchanged boughs and gifts during Satturnalia, which took place a week before Christmas.
Another name for holly is Christ’s Thorn. According to legend, when Christ walked on earth holly grew in his footsteps. Perhaps it was called holy tree not holly tree and the scarlet berries, which resemble drops of blood, are symbolic of Christ’s suffering.
Eventually, the Church accepted holly, the wood of which was thought to have been used for the cross on which Christ was crucified; and the leaves were believed to have been used in His crown of thorns. It was also claimed its white flowers symbolised the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception and that its evergreen leaves represented life eternal.
There are many superstitions about holly, which was regarded as a man’s plant. Mediaeval people believed holly brings good luck, and that when it was planted outside their doors it protected them from thunderstorms.
So, when I bring holly into my house tomorrow I will be conscious of these and many more old beliefs, legends and superstitions.