Sunday, 5 December 2010

December bringing in the evergreen

 The tradition of using evergreen boughs, including holly and mistletoe, as decoration during winter celebrations is ancient.  

Evergreens are a natural symbol of hope and the promise of renewed life at a time when most plants are barren in European climates. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder that the crops would grow again. In December, the days are short, the nights are long and spring seems far away. The evergreen is a reminder of life and renewal.

Because both the holly and the ivy are very hardy, it was believed that their ability to survive harsh conditions would somehow help the household to make it through the winter.  They were also believed to keep away evil spirits. Like the holly, mistletoe bears its fruits in winter and both are symbols of life in the darkest most barren month of the year.

In the early days of the Christian Church, and even up until the 19th century, the use of evergreen decorations and trees during Christmas was discouraged or prohibited because of its Pagan associations.