Wintergreens and Legends

December 17, 2018

Homes are often decorated with greenery and ribbons during December, regardless of religious beliefs. Below are some winter plants brought indoors for their scent and aesthetic appeal.

HOLLY – Romans and early Christians believed that holly had pro- tective powers and therefore used as a charm throughout household rooms. Think of the seasonal hymn, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly…”

IVY – Ivy is an ancient symbol of love. In the Middle Ages, the English began twining pliable ivy around berry-laden holly arrangements perhaps to soften the look. Strangely enough, ivy was designated as female and holly as male, so the two plants together symbolized light-hearted gender rivalry.

LAUREL – Ancient Romans believed that the gods of growth and rejuvenation took refuge in greenery, and they often brought trees indoors during winter. By offering the gods shelter and protection, people hoped to share the life-affirming powers.

Laurels were plentiful and can grow up to 50 feet tall in their native Mediterranean climate.

EVERGREENS – Indoor greenery reminded Greeks and Romans of nature’s vitality, and they suspected this fragrant, hardy tree had magical survival capabilities because it remained green no matter how tough the winter. The Victorian era appreciated lavish arrangements of ivy, laurel, bay, hemlock, and yew, particularly at Christmas. Evergreen trees as part of a Christmas celebration date back to Martin Luther in the 16th century. He was supposedly in a snowy forest on Christmas Eve when the stars suggested how the first Christmas sky might have looked. He carried home a snow-covered fir tree to share the experience with his children and they dressed it with candles, to represent starlight. A writer in the Alsace region of France documented in 1605 that apples, wafers, sweets, paper roses and gold foil were used to decorate Christmas fir trees.

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