The approaching holiday season is a fantastic time to enjoy customs and age-old traditions. Many times, we don’t even know where some of our holiday traditions began. The inclusion of holly is one such tradition. We use it in much of our decorating and even sing songs about it, but when did these traditions begin? Why is it so important to our Christmas decor? The floral experts at Flowers by Coley discovered some really interesting facts about holly, what it is, why it’s so prevalent in our holiday decor, and how we can continue to keep the tradition alive by decorating with it. Take a look!
What is Holly?
Holly grows as a shrub with tree-like tendencies, some varieties even reaching heights of 10-15 feet. The distinct leaves distinguish this plant from any other, with rich green color and sharp, pointy edges. Bright red berries also appear on the female versions of the plant, attracting birds like robins that use this plant as a food source, but also warning humans and other animals of its toxicity. As an evergreen, holly can be found in North America, Europe and Asia, and the leaves have been used for medicinal purposes in some cultures.
Holly Berries on Snowy Branch
What Does Holly Symbolize?
Throughout history, various people groups dating back to ancient times have revered the holly plant. The ancient Druids believed holly had protective qualities, like guarding against evil spirits and bad luck. Ancient Norse tradition recognized holly’s ability to resist lightning, so they associated it with Taranis and Thor, gods of thunder. In Ancient Roman culture, holly was used in the winter celebration of Saturnalia, and wreaths of holly were sent to newlyweds for good luck.
Ancient Chinese culture decorated with holly for their winter New Year’s celebration, and Native Americans were known to use the berries for decorating, too. Today, we associate holly with the Christian celebration of Christmas, with the sharp leaves representing the crown of thorns Christ wore, the berries symbolizing his drops of blood, and the evergreen nature of holly as a metaphor for eternal life.
Holly Wreath on Old Door
How Can We Decorate with Holly?
Regardless of your beliefs about ancient traditions, it’s evident that holly adds beauty and a lively spirit to holiday decor. It’s green leaves and red berries are a natural fit for Christmas color. As an evergreen, it fits right in with other lush holiday foliage like pine and fir. We love to include holly in our festive holiday floral designs, like our Holiday Gathering bouquet, where sprigs of holly add a hint of Christmas spirit.
A Holiday Gathering
How you decorate for Christmas each year is undoubtedly a tradition in its own right, and most likely, you find yourself including sprigs of holly somewhere in your home. If not, consider mixing it up this year and starting new traditions that are actually quite old. For more tips, tricks, and creative ideas about decorating with holly, talk to the floral experts at Flowers by Coley. We’re here to help you make your holiday season merry and bright!